Wealth Transfers and Net Wealth at Death: Evidence from the Italian Inheritance Tax Records 1995–2016
In this paper we describe a novel source of data on the full record of inheritance tax files in Italy, covering up to 63 percent of total deceased. The work documents a substantial rise in the total value of inheritance and gifts as a share of national income, from 8.4 percent in 1995 to 15.1 percent in 2016. Consistent with the increasing role of total personal net wealth in the economy, the weight of inheritance and gifts in Italy appears relatively high by international standards. Over the same period, total wealth left at death has also become increasingly concentrated. The estates valued at least one million Euro were worth 18.7 percent of total estate in the mid 1990s and 24.8 percent in 2016. This paper also documents that revenues collected from the inheritance tax underwent a large decline from 0.14 percent to 0.06 percent of total tax revenue between 1995 and 2016. Data also allow a disaggregated analysis by demographic and geographic characteristics.
We are grateful to the Department of Finance of the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance for providing technical support and access to the data. The views expressed in the paper are the authors’ responsibility only. We thank Facundo Alvaredo, Twisha Asher, Giovanni D’Alessio, Janet Gornick, and Arthur Kennickell for very helpful comments and discussions. We also thank Margaret R. Jones and Carolyn Fisher for very helpful comments to the structure of this paper and other participants of the CRIW-NBER conference on “Measuring and Understanding the Distribution and Intra/Inter-Generational Mobility of Income and Wealth,” DC March
5–6, 2020. SM acknowledges support from the Stone Center on Socio-Economic Inequality at the Graduate Center CUNY.
The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.