Wealth Taxes: Perspectives from ATI and Partner Countries

Insights from ATI partners on wealth taxation’s role in closing the tax gap and promoting equity.

The recently concluded Closing the Tax Gap: A Role for Wealth Taxation? event provided valuable insights into the field of wealth taxation, a topic that has gained significant traction in recent global debates, especially in the wake of rising inequality and the urgent need for countries to generate additional revenue

Wealth taxation can be understood as the practice of taxing the wealth of individuals and companies. There are different methods to achieve this: through net wealth taxes, which tax the total wealth someone possesses; capital income taxes, which tax the income earned from wealth; or through taxing wealth transfers, like inheritances. Each of these methods serves the purpose of ensuring a fair contribution from those with considerable wealth towards the functioning and betterment of society. 

The event highlighted that while taxing capital income comprehensively is often recommended over net wealth taxes due to the latter's high administrative costs, complexities in asset valuation, and the potential for capital flight, net wealth taxes have become a topic of renewed interest. This renewed interest is driven by challenges such as the incomplete taxation of capital income and increasing wealth inequality.

The topic of wealth taxation has become prominent in recent global debates, particularly amidst rising inequality and the pressing need for countries to generate additional revenue.

One of the key focuses of the event was on the applicability and effectiveness of net wealth taxes, particularly in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), which face different challenges compared to OECD countries. Representatives from LMICs such as Argentina, Bangladesh, Colombia, Ecuador, and Uruguay shared their diverse experiences with net wealth taxation, discussing various design elements like thresholds, rates, and tax bases.

Daniel Osorio (Colombia) and Carlos Jaramillo (Ecuador) presenting their countries experiences. 


The experiences of these countries illuminated the varied approaches to wealth taxation and the unique economic, political, and social factors influencing their tax policies. The roundtable discussion also highlighted issues such as whether to include firms in the tax base or not. Colombia and Ecuador have done so in their temporary wealth taxes, while Colombia moved away from this approach with the introduction of a permanent wealth tax. Uruguay’s permanent wealth tax also applies to firms.

Screenshot during the roundtable discussion.
Screenshot during the roundtable discussion.


A special mention was made of Bangladesh's novel approach to wealth taxation, which involves a net wealth surcharge on income tax. This method represents an innovative attempt to navigate around some of the common administrative and valuation challenges associated with traditional net wealth taxes. However, as was discussed, this approach also brings with it its own unique set of challenges and complexities.

Screenshot during H M Shahriar Hassan’s presentation on Net Wealth Taxation in Bangladesh.
Screenshot during H M Shahriar Hassan’s presentation on Net Wealth Taxation in Bangladesh. 


The event underscored that the revenue generated from net wealth taxes is relatively limited in most countries, limiting the role of such taxes to close tax gaps. However, they play a crucial role in promoting equity and fairness in the tax system. This is particularly significant in countries with higher levels of inequality, where wealth taxes can help in redistributing wealth more evenly. 

The World Bank's role in examining the merits of net wealth taxation in LMICs, as part of its broader project on capital income, property, and wealth taxation, was also highlighted. The Bank aims to bring together the practical experiences of countries that have implemented or considered implementing a net wealth tax, creating a valuable resource for learning and adaptation. 

The event was embedded into the 2024 ATI Tax Gap Workshop that delved into the challenges and methodologies of tax gap estimation, an important tool for countries to evaluate their revenue collection effectiveness and compare it with their peers.  

In conclusion, the event served as an informative platform for sharing global perspectives on wealth taxation. The discussions, country experiences, and the World Bank's ongoing efforts collectively contribute to a deeper understanding of wealth taxation's role in closing tax gaps, addressing financial inequality, and achieving equitable economic development. This event review, intended for a non-technical audience, highlights the significance and complexity of wealth taxation in the modern economic landscape.

Screenshots taken during the event “Closing the Tax Gap: a Role for Wealth Taxation?”
Screenshots taken during the event “Closing the Tax Gap: a Role for Wealth Taxation?”