Thilo Albers, Morten Jerven, Marvin Suesse, 22 November 2020

Why do large differences in tax revenues between states exist and persist? This column introduces a comprehensive new dataset of tax and revenue collection for all African polities from 1900 to 2015 to answer this central question. The results confirm the importance of democratic institutions and political stability, while de-emphasising the role of resource revenues. Overall, states in Africa have been able to build institutions for the collection of ‘hard’ taxes when the preconditions were favourable, especially when access to external finance was limited. These insights add important nuance to established theories of state-building in developing countries.

Antoine Bozio, Bertrand Garbinti, Jonathan Goupille-Lebret, Malka Guillot, Thomas Piketty, 18 November 2020

How much can redistribution policies account for long-run changes in inequality? This column reveals that the reduction of inequality implied by redistribution is significant in France and the US and increased throughout the entire 20th century, but pre-tax income inequality appears to be the main factor accounting for the differential levels and trends in the two countries. These findings suggest that policy discussions on inequality should pay more attention to policies affecting pre-tax inequality and should not focus exclusively on redistribution.

Spencer Bastani, Daniel Waldenström, 09 November 2020

How should capital be taxed in advanced economies? This column presents a survey of the recent literature on optimal capital taxation and empirical studies on the distortionary effects of capital taxes. It provides specific analyses for taxes on wealth, property, inheritance, personal capital income, and corporate profits. Its overall conclusion is that capital taxation is part of an optimal tax system, but not all capital taxes strike a balance between optimality and administrative feasibility.

Isabela Manelici, Smaranda Pantea, 08 November 2020

Industrial policies can be an effective tool for governments to shape the development of different sectors to achieve productivity growth. But there is little evidence of their effectiveness or efficiency. This column examines the impact of an income tax break for IT workers in Romania. The findings suggest that targeted policies of this kind can boost key sectors. This finding is encouraging in terms of the ability of governments to design and implement effective industrial policies. 

Thiess Buettner, Boryana Madzharova, 27 October 2020

Facing the economic consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic, governments all over the world are considering providing a fiscal stimulus. A potentially powerful instrument to do so is a broad-based consumption tax such as VAT. This column argues that changes in VAT may have some effect in stimulating spending on certain consumer durable goods such as household appliances. However, these effects may be heterogenous across different product types and the timing and perceived credibility of the announcements are also important factors for policymakers to consider.

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