Master Theses Topics

Master Theses Topics

Here is a list of possible topics to write a Master thesis under the supervision of NoCeT’s researchers:

  • Digital residency program: a policy to boost the economy or a high-tech route for suspect funds?

    Digital residency program: a policy to boost the economy or a high-tech route for suspect funds?

    In 2021, Palau launched its digital residency program, which offers foreigners a digital identity to access to all services within Palau’s emerging digital economy. However, Palau is not the first country to offer such a program. In 2014, Estonia was the first country to establish a digital residency program. It primarily targeted businesses that could start a EU based company and run it from anywhere, fully online.

    For example, a foreign entrepreneur would be able to use his/her digital signature to conclude contracts throughout the European Union entirely remotely. So far, it has been a success with more than 50,000 applications as of 2019. Yet, anecdotal evidence suggests that the Estonian digital residency program has also been vulnerable to money laundering risks. What is the economic effect of such programs? Do they improve the business environment of a country or do they offer a high-tech route for suspect funds?

    Supervisor: Elisa Casi and Mohammed Mardan.

  • Inequality and the inheritance tax in Norway

    Inequality and the inheritance tax in Norway

    Prior research argues that the inheritance tax is an important instrument to reduce inequality. In Norway, the inheritance tax was abolished in 2014. How did this effect income and wealth inequality in various parts of Norway? The aim of this thesis is to investigate these questions using micro-level data from Statistics Norway (SSB).

    Supervisor: Maximilian Todtenhaupt.

  • Did companies misuse government support during Covid-19?

    Did companies misuse government support during Covid-19?

    Government support to firms during the Covid-19 pandemic was comprehensive and supposed to quickly reach businesses. This may have lead to some firms exploiting government funds that were not eligible. For example, some companies may have been reconstructed to utilize the support schemes and then initiate bankruptcies in parts of companies. It may also be of interest to look at risk factors that arise in companies that receive payments from several support schemes. This study will contribute to an evaluation of how well the grant schemes have worked.

    Supervisor: Maximilian Todtenhaupt.

  • Corporate solvency and government support during Covid-19

    Corporate solvency and government support during Covid-19

    The lock-down of Norway on March 12, 2020 meant that many businesses had problems paying taxes and fees. In order to alleviate the burdens and avoid bankruptcies, the government, with effect from 12 June 2020, issued a regulatory provision that allows for deferral of payment for most tax and duty claims. This has led to a halving of bankruptcies compared with 2019 and raises several interesting, empirical questions: Have schemes led to companies being kept alive that would normally have gone bankrupt? How can the tax administration predict bankruptcy among firms?

    Supervisor: Maximilian Todtenhaupt.

  • Circumnavigating the Information Exchange using Cryptocurrency: An Empirical Analysis

    Circumnavigating the Information Exchange using Cryptocurrency: An Empirical Analysis

    Increased capital mobility offered incentives for individuals to transfer wealth and related income to offshore locations to avoid tax obligations at home. Increased collection and exchange of information has been highlighted as key policy tool to reduce such type of cross-border tax evasion. In recent years, the automatic exchange of information on financial accounts has been introduced in more than 100 countries worldwide. Yet certain loopholes exist which hinder its effectiveness. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the use of cryptocurrency represents an important channel through which the reporting duty can be circumnavigated. 

    The master thesis will investigate empirically whether cryptocurrencies are used for tax evasion purposes in the context of avoiding the collection and exchange of information under the Common Reporting Standard (CRS) and Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA).

    Supervisor: Elisa Casi-Eberhard.

  • Can tax transparency be a driver for environmental, social and governance performance?

    Can tax transparency be a driver for environmental, social and governance performance?

    Nowadays, company performance on environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors is a key driver for future growth. However, companies not only have to score high on ESG factors but they need also to tell a convincing story about it to stakeholders. Survey evidence suggests that tax departments are increasingly involved in the company’s ESG efforts. One core area of the tax department input is the reporting on the company tax strategy and how through the total tax contribution the company contributes to the society. 

    The master thesis will empirically investigate whether increased tax transparency, with a special focus on disclosure around total tax contribution, is associated with better ESG performance.

    Supervisor: Elisa Casi-Eberhard.

  • Dividend taxation, Cum-Cum Trading and Ex-Dividend Pricing

    Dividend taxation, Cum-Cum Trading and Ex-Dividend Pricing

    A common tax planning strategy among investors is to sell their stocks the day before dividends are due, and buy them back on the ex-dividend day. This strategy, known as cum-cum trading, allows investors to avoid paying dividend taxes. The Norwegian tax authorities are considering to implement policies that make cum-cum trading less attractive in order to generate more dividend tax revenue.

    Your task will be to see how cum-cum trading relates to taxation and other policy variables, using international stock market data. Questions that you could answer in this topic are: Do stock market experience excess trade around the dividend day? Does excess trade relate to the dividend tax rate? Do stock prices reflect the level of the dividend tax? Are policies aimed at combating cum-cum trading effective in other countries?

    Cum-cum trading strategies have been detected in Europe. Are they present in the Asian and South-American market? Are these trades a global problem that contributes to rising inequality?

    Supervisor: Floris Zoutman and Evelina Gavrilova-Zoutman

  • Dividend taxation, abusive stock swap and loan transactions

    Dividend taxation, abusive stock swap and loan transactions

    A tax strategy among investors is to recast a dividend payment as a swap payment in order to take advantage of favoured tax treatment given to swap agreements involving non-US persons in the US. US stock dividents paid to non-US persons are subject to the dividend tax, whereas “dividend equivalents” paid to non-US persons as part of a swap agreement are not subject to any US tax.

    Since a 2009 Senate hearing identified the tax evasion nature of these transactions, there has been little research on the topic. These transactions are likely the origin from which cum fraud schemes have arisen. Since 2009 the US has had reforms in their dividend tax and in the legislation surrounding the claiming of these dividend equivalents. What is the impact of these reforms on stock lending of US stocks?

    Supervisor: Floris Zoutman and Evelina Gavrilova-Zoutman

  • Inventors and tax havens

    Inventors and tax havens

    Inventors are an important source of innovation for any country. At the same time they are highly mobile and respond to tax incentives. Furthermore, the intellectual property they create (e.g. patents) can be used shift income to tax havens. How many inventors are involved in such tax avoidance behavior? This project will assess the importance of inventors in tax havens by combining data on international inventors with the Panama papers which have recently become available.

    Supervisor: Maximilian Todtenhaupt.

  • The Tax Haven Call

    The Tax Haven Call

    In political and institutional economy we think of countries as having extractive and inclusive institutions. Institutions are loosely defined as informal norms of behaviour. In an influential (but controversial) paper by Acemoglu et al. (2001) the type of institutions are shown to impact economic development. However, it is unclear whether what aspect of these informal norms have influenced countries like the Netherlands, Ireland and Bermuda to become tax havens?

    Dharmapala and Hines (2009) have found that governance is an important factor that separates tax havens from non-tax havens. Better-governed small countries are more likely to be successful tax havens than badly governed small countries. Governance and institutions are closely related, but the link is not explored in this article.

    In addition, the list of tax havens has expanded since 2009 and now we have continuous measures of secrecy and tax haven status, which can give better identification in re-examining the question: What makes a tax haven?

    Starting point: Dharmapala, D. and Hines Jr, J.R., 2009. Which countries become tax havens?. Journal of Public Economics, 93(9-10), pp.1058-1068.

    Supervisor: Evelina Gavrilova-Zoutman.

  • Wealth Taxation in Norway

    Wealth Taxation in Norway

    The wealth tax is one of the most controversial aspects of the Norwegian tax system. Detractors believe that the wealth tax hurts economic growth by disincentivizing entrepreneurial activity and risk taking, and taking away a source of liquidity for business owners. Proponents argue that the wealth tax is a great instrument to reduce inequality.

    In this project you will use data on Norwegian tax payers to evaluate the arguments of the detractors. Specifically, the goal is to understand i.) whether the arguments are valid empirically, ii.) how large the concerns are quantitatively. Specific research questions could be i.) does the wealth tax discourage individuals/business owners from taking risk, ii.) does the wealth tax reduce liquidity for small businesses, iii.) does the wealth tax reduce innovation or iv). does the wealth tax discourage savings. The answer of each of these four questions is of great practical relevance to policy makers that have to make a trade-off between the efficiency cost and the equity gain associated with the wealth tax.

    Data: Individual tax return data

    Literature:

    • Berzins, Janis, Øyvind Bøhren and Bodan Stacesu (2019). Illiquid Shareholders and real firm effects: the personal wealth tax and financial constraints. Working Paper BI.
    • Akcigit, U., Grigsby, J., Nicholas, T., & Stantcheva, S. (2018). Taxation and Innovation in the 20th Century. NBER Working Paper.

    Supervisor: Floris Zoutman

  • Smuggling and money laundering

    Smuggling and money laundering

    It is well known that laundered money change their form from cash to other goods such as jewellery, antique objects or other collectible items. Do we observe abnormal flows of such good to/from tax havens? Do these flows shift with the signing of information exchange agreements between two countries?

    Methods: Regressions, machine learning.

    Supervisor: Evelina Gavrilova-Zoutman.

  • Using Textual Analysis to identify whether there is a gender gap in financial white collar crime

    Using Textual Analysis to identify whether there is a gender gap in financial white collar crime

    There is very little systematic evidence on the gender gap in crime. In particular, it is difficult to quantify it for financial white collar crime, as they do not find their way into police statistics and as there is little female presence on the top levels of companies.

    In this project, we can use textual analysis tools to collect data from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on insider trading and other frauds. We can match the name of the defendant to a gender, and quantify what is the difference between males and females.

    Then, we can correlate the gap, as well as the fraud itself, to past financial statements of involved companies in terms of gender representation in the board of the company and other indicators of company culture. Finally, we can compare the gap to other measures of female participation in the boardroom and determine whether white collar females seem more or less likely to commit crimes than white collar males. We can provide a partial answer to the question: Are companies going to become more responsible (do less criminal rule-breaking) if there are more females on the board?

    Methods: Textual analysis, web crawling, R

    Supervisor: Evelina Gavrilova-Zoutman.

  • Detecting Corruption in the Oil-For-Food Program

    Detecting Corruption in the Oil-For-Food Program

    The Oil for Food Program (OFFP) was a relief effort orchestrated by the United Nations to help the people of Iraq after the Gulf War. It lasted from 1995 to 2003. Leaks from classified reports reveal that there has been rampant corruption, from the bank that handled the Iraq escrow account, to the trucking company that was supposed to handle the logistics of food transport. Even the then UN General Secretary Kofi Annan has been implicated in this corruption scandal. By looking at important events that influence the survival of the OFFP and stock prices of companies bidding for contracts, by virtue of insider trading, we can find an indirect proof for corruption.

    The methodology for this thesis is the same as in DellaVigna, S. and La Ferrara, E., 2010. Detecting illegal arms trade. American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, 2(4), pp.26-57.

    Supervisor: Evelina Gavrilova-Zoutman.

  • The disintegration of institutions and the smuggling of antiquities

    The disintegration of institutions and the smuggling of antiquities

    Countries that enter a period of internal strife such as a civil war experience a disintegration of institutions. When factions are battling for control, who would protect the property rights of victims? This creates an excellent climate to export antique objects with little oversight. Can we link export flows to civil war status? Can we flip this, and use flows of antiquities to flag countries where rule of law is disintegrating?

    Starting Point: Fisman, R., & Wei, S. J. (2009). The smuggling of art, and the art of smuggling: Uncovering the illicit trade in cultural property and antiques. American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 1(3), 82-96.

    Supervisor: Evelina Gavrilova-Zoutman

  • COVID-19 and lockdown measures: understanding the mechanisms

    COVID-19 and lockdown measures: understanding the mechanisms

    During the COVID-19 pandemic most countries imposed Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions (NPIs) or lockdown measures in an effort to halt the spread of the disease. In a case study focusing on the Scandinavian countries we show that in Scandinavia the NPIs introduced by Norway and Denmark were extraordinarily effective in reducing the pressure on the health care system and mortality (Juranek and Zoutman 2020). In this thesis we want you to pick apart the mechanisms. Which NPIs are most effective in reducing the spread of the disease? When should countries introduce NPIs (traditional epidemiology suggests that early NPIs will be much more effective than the same NPIs introduced at later stages)? What is the relationship between mobility on the one hand, and the spread of COVID-19 on the other hand? All of these questions remain mostly unanswered and are of extreme importance to policy makers trying to stop a second (or third) COVID-19 wave, or trying to fight a new infectious disease in the future.

    Data: the EU has created a database which contains an overview of all NPIs passed in EEA countries. The database also contains records on hospitalizations, which for many reasons is the most valuable measure in tracking the spread of the disease. Google has publicly available data on mobility. For Scandinavian countries we can also track data at the regional level.

    Methods: the methods depend on the background and training of the student undertaking the thesis. Many meaningful relationship can be estimated through linear regression. However, it is also possible to use more advanced methods such as machine learning or epidemiological models.

    Reference: Juranek, Steffen and Floris Zoutman (2020). “The Effect of Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions on the Demand for Health Care and Mortality: Evidence on COVID-19 in Scandinavia” SSRN Working Paper.

    Supervisor: Floris Zoutman

  • COVID-19 and Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions: A cost-benefit analysis

    COVID-19 and Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions: A cost-benefit analysis

    All countries in developed countries have introduced Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions (NPIs) such as social distancing, handwashing, mask wearing and school closures, in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19. The charge has up to now been lead almost exclusively by epidemiologists. In most countries economists are not included in the team of experts that advice the government on these decisions. That’s a pity, because economics, and especially, old-fashioned cost-benefit analysis has a lot to offer under these conditions. Roughly speaking NPIs all have their economic costs and benefits (i.e. their ability to halt the spread of COVID-19). From a cost-benefit standpoint it is possible to sort NPIs from “cheap” (high benefits, low costs) to “expensive” (low costs, high benefits). In case of a pandemic the objective of the government should be to keep the pandemic suppressed at the lowest possible cost. This means that we should pass NPIs in order from cheap to expensive. In particular, the most expensive measures should only be introduced in case cheaper methods do not suffice.

    To give a practical example, handwashing is cheap in the sense that it has very little economic costs and is most likely quite effective at stopping the spread of COVID-19. Social distancing is relatively more costly as it comes with high economic costs (think for instance about spacing people out in classrooms, public transport etc.), and is probably not much more effective than handwashing. This does not imply that we should not practice social distancing, but it does imply that handwashing comes “first”.

    In this thesis, you will do two things. First, you explain in more detail the principles of cost-benefit analysis applied to the COVID-19 pandemic. Second, you provide your best guestimates of the costs and benefits of NPIs passed in Norway using, for instance, academic literature, media sources and interviews with experts. Third, you apply your cost-benefit analysis with the guestimates to provide clear policy advice to Norwegian policy makers on which measures should come first.

    Methods: cost-benefit analysis, literature review, interviews with experts

    Supervisor: Floris Zoutman

  • COVID-19 and the Labor Market: Understanding the Mechanisms

    COVID-19 and the Labor Market: Understanding the Mechanisms

    Juranek et al (2020) study the labor market in the Nordic countries during the COVID-19 pandemic. We find that the pandemic has had disastrous consequences in terms of both unemployed and furloughed workers in all four countries. Sweden, comparatively does the best, and Norway is at the bottom (at least in the short run). Part of the difference in labor market outcomes is driven by differences in lockdown measures, which Sweden (in)famously abstained from, but there are also differences in labor market policies. Moreover, the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic itself may have a direct effect on labor markets. In this project, you will try to unpack the mechanisms focusing on data from the Nordic countries. As a first pass, you will extend the data of Juranek et al (2020) and replicate their analysis over a longer time frame. Afterwards, you will build a statistical model that disentangles the mechanisms between COVID-19 and the labor market using causal diagrams, regression analysis and/or machine learning tools. The results will be helpful in understanding how the pandemic affected labor markets, and guide policy makers in passing measures that fight the pandemic but minimize the damage to the labor market. Data: Labor market data from the Nordic countries available from the various statistical agencies, data on mobility available from Google and data on the spread of the pandemic, available from health institutes. Methods: Linear Regression, causal diagrams, machine learnings (the choice of methods can be adjusted based on the student’s background).

    References: Juranek, Steffen, Jörg Paetzold, Hannes Winner and Floris Zoutman (2020) “Labor Market Effects of COVID-19 in Sweden and its Neighbors: Evidence from Novel Administrative Data” SSRN Working Paper

    Supervisor: Floris Zoutman

  • Literature review on the effects school facilities have on student and teacher outcomes

    Literature review on the effects school facilities have on student and teacher outcomes

    Supervisor: Arnt-Ove Hopland

  • How do schools adapt to their physical infrastructure?

    How do schools adapt to their physical infrastructure?

    Does it matter for teaching practice whether the school is new, old, well maintained, run down, a permanent building or temporary modules ("barracks")?

    Supervisor: Arnt-Ove Hopland