Taxation

Xavier Debrun, Luc Eyraud, Andrew Hodge, Victor Lledo, Catherine Pattillo, 22 May 2018

Less than five years into the great euro experiment, the president of the European Commission at the time judged Europe’s limit on public deficits to be "stupid". A more intriguing question, however, is whether numerical constraints on broad indicators of fiscal performance can contain politicians’ penchant for borrowing too much and at the wrong time. This column summarises lessons from recent research on fiscal rules, including the new generation of ‘smart’ rules that emerged around the Global Crisis. Rules can mitigate fiscal excesses if they strike a good balance between simplicity, flexibility, and enforceability. 

Annette Alstadsæter, Niels Johannesen, Gabriel Zucman, 09 May 2018

Tax records are often used to gauge the concentration of wealth and income in a society. However, if the rich dodge taxes more than the poor, tax records will underestimate inequality. This column uses Scandinavia as an example to demonstrate how tax evasion varies with wealth: the top 0.01% richest households in Scandinavia evade about 25% of the taxes they owe by concealing assets and investment income abroad. The very rich are able to do this simply because they have access to wealth concealment services. To reduce top-end evasion, what is essential is to shrink the supply of such services.

Marcel Henkel, Tobias Seidel, Jens Südekum, 04 May 2018

Germany shifts a massive amount of fiscal transfers across jurisdictions every year. This column argues that this limits the degree of economic disparities across regions, but comes at the cost of lower national productivity and output. Still, in terms of welfare, Germany would not be better off if all fiscal transfers were abolished.

Georg Duernecker, Berthold Herrendorf, 01 May 2018

Recent research has shown that, in contrast to the prediction of basic theory, income tax increases in OECD countries have led people to spend less time working and more time on leisure activities, with little change in hours of household work. This column uses new estimates of household productivity to resolve the discrepancy between the evidence and basic theory. The OECD countries in which governments increased income taxes also tended to experience increases in the productivity of household production.

Rasmus Wiese, Richard Jong-A-Pin, Jakob de Haan, 26 March 2018

Empirical research concludes that austerity measures that target spending are more likely to succeed than those that target taxation. This column argues that this result arises from a methodological flaw that assumes all countries have equal variability in their budget balance. Correcting for this in data from 20 OECD countries suggests that spending-based and revenue-based adjustments have been equally successful.

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