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Skatteforsk - Centre for tax research

Alternative title: Skatteforsk - Senter for skatte- og åtferdsforsking

Awarded: NOK 30.0 mill.

Project Number:


Project Period:

2023 - 2027

Funding received from:


Challenges related to the design and execution of tax policy are far more than academic issues in today’s world. Concerns over tax evasion by firms and individuals reach news headlines with increasing frequency, especially following a series of leaks that have given the broader public an insight into the scope of this problem. In times of clear inequality, unfair tax systems can undermine tax morale and erode the foundations of today’s liberal democracies. Therefore, the need to bridge the gap between academic research to both policy makers and the broader public has never been greater. The purpose of Skatteforsk - Centre for Tax Research is to provide policy relevant, cutting-edge taxation research. At its heart is the recognition of the need for facts to inform both public debate and policy design. Skatteforsk has more than 70 members globally, of which 11 are hired full or part-time at NMBU, where the center is hosted by the School of Economics and Business. Skatteforsk's work is transdisciplinary and international. Professors and early-career researchers from different countries and from backgrounds including Economics, Philosophy, Finance and Law, collaborate in a wide range of topics we have defined as priorities. Our work is organized in eight main work packages with numerous sub-projects: WP 1 - Data infra structure and research ethics. WP 2 - The frontiers of financial activity. WP 3 - Real estate. WP 4 - Taxation of multinationals and its effects. WP 5 - Inequality within and across countries. WP 6 - Connecting the dots - Climate change, equity, and taxes. WP 7 - Firm and individual reactions to taxation. WP8 - Compliance and enforcement by design. What previously only existed as an umbrella term for a network of interested researchers has now received, through this grant, the necessary funding to build the required infra structure, administered by the Skatteforsk Director and Research Director, and administrative support in the form of a newly hired Outreach Director (100%) and a Communication Advisor (50%) to continue producing and publishing cutting-edge economic research, expanding our network activities, actively disseminating research insights, and bringing about greater impact on policy issues. The main international events was the launch of the innovative new data website “Atlas of the Offshore World” as well as the “Global Tax Evasion Report 2024”, both issued by the EU Tax Observatory in Paris in collaboration with Skatteforsk. We hosted two major events in Norway in 2023: 1) Skatteforsk was officially opened by the Norwegian Tax Director in a big event in Ås in March, with speeches also by the State Secretary of the Ministry of Finance, the Director of Helfo, as well as the Director of Norad, reflecting the importance of Skatteforsk’s work for broader parts of the public sector. 2) The inaugural annual Skatteforsk Conference (in collaboration with University of Stavanger) and a series of co-hosted events with the Kåkånomics Festival in October. At the Skatteforsk Conference, our team members from many countries had the opportunity to meet in person and learn from each other. We had over 40 participants, including representatives from the Norwegian Tax Administration, Norwegian Ministry of Finance, and NORAD. On the last day of our conference, Gabriel Zucman, the world's leading authority on tax and inequality research, held a keynote seminar (also livestreamed) for all participants. The ending of the conference coincided with the starting day of the Kåkånomics Festival. Skatteforsk hosted two big events on the opening day of the Festival and participated in 3 more. For 2023, Skatteforsk had 3 PhD dissertations and our members have participated in 6 government committees, and published 9 papers in Norwegian and International academic journals. There has been massive dissemination, with 6 published popular science articles, 12 op-eds in mainly Norwegian newspapers, and 176 presentations to academia, policy makers, users, and general public. In addition, Skatteforsk has generated 204 media mentions in 2023, mainly in newspapers. We have been very active in networking and fostering research ideas, with in total 36 events, including international workshops in Oxford, Brussels, London, Barcelona, Stavanger, and a junior workshop in Ås, as well as numerous dialogue meetings and workshops with national and international bodies.

The primary battle in setting tax policy is the efforts firms and individuals take to avoid taxes. While it is recognized that such efforts are significant and have sizable effects on the economy, little is known about it due to specific measures to hide such activities. This proposal takes a “forensic economic” approach that uses existing, available data to shine light on where tax avoidance takes place, how it impacts individuals and the overall economy, and how this operates in a global setting. Our unique data covering foreign property holdings, international bank transfers, firm-level carbon emissions, and more are linked to a detailed set of information on firms and individuals. By taking these data to cutting-edge tools such as machine learning (that can identify potential tax avoiders) and network analysis (to link, for example, spousal responses to taxation), we can examine who is avoiding tax, how they are doing it, and who benefits from it. Critically, our forensic approach is grounded in what can be done with the existing data, giving it a hands-on, practical element. Following this, we can examine issues such as how globalization has tax preferences among voters, how it impacts investment decisions, and how it affects where production – and thus pollution – occurs. This then shows the real, direct impact of tax dodging. Finally, we use our results to generate a set of red flags and other methods to improve targeted audits and other tax enforcement measures. This last includes analysis of not just tax evasion, but overall public services abuse such as overcharging of health care bills. By combining leaders in taxation, law, computer science, environmental sciences, and more, our project provides an innovative approach to both academic research and tax administration that sets out to push the envelope of our understanding of taxation and make significant, practical improvements in how to make the jump from tax policy to tax practice.

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