Sanjeev Gupta, Michael Keen, Alpa Shah, Geneviève Verdier, 07 March 2018

Digitalisation has vastly increased our ability to collect and exploit the information that governments use to implement macroeconomic policy. The column argues that the ability of governments to use the vast amounts of information held in the private sector on financial transactions are already making fiscal policy more efficient and effective. Problems of access to digital technology, cybersecurity risks, and the difficulty of organisational change in the public sector may slow the pace at which these opportunities are exploited.

Youssef Benzarti, Dorian Carloni, 13 November 2017

In the wake of the Global Crisis, some governments sought to stimulate demand through VAT cuts. This column assesses the success of these measures by investigating who benefited from a VAT cut on sit-down restaurant meals in France. The results show that restaurant owners captured the lions’ share of the tax cut, while employees and consumers benefited substantially less. Further, following subsequent tax increases, restaurant owners increased their prices by four to five times more than they had decreased their prices following the original cut.

David Cashin, Takashi Unayama, 18 June 2016

Japan’s prime minister recently announced that a planned 2% VAT increase would be postponed from 2017 to 2019. This column explores how Japanese household consumption adjusted to a VAT increase that was announced in 2013 and implemented in 2014. Household consumption fell by around 4% upon announcement and 1% upon implementation, suggesting that most of the negative impact of a VAT rate increase occurs at the time of the announcement. 

Li Liu, Ben Lockwood, 09 July 2015

Most countries have a threshold below which businesses do not need to register for value added tax (VAT). This column looks at the costs and efficiency of VAT by analysing behavioural responses of firms to the registration threshold. Voluntary registration appears more likely when the cost of inputs is high or when the proportion of business-to-consumer sales is low. There is bunching around the threshold, and this is more likely when the cost of inputs relative to sales is low or the proportion of business-to-consumer sales is high.

Francesco D'Acunto, Daniel Hoang, Michael Weber, 09 June 2015

Theory suggests that higher inflation expectations increase the likelihood that people will buy durable goods. This column presents evidence showing that this works for more educated, working-age, high-income, and urban households. A natural experiment from Germany shows us that the effect of inflation expectations on readiness to spend is causal and that monetary and fiscal policies that increase inflation expectations can therefore successfully spur aggregate consumption in the short run.

Dirk Niepelt, 21 January 2015

Recent experience with the zero lower bound on nominal interest rates, and the use of high-denomination notes by criminals and tax evaders, have led to revived proposals to phase out cash. This column argues that abolishing cash may be neither necessary nor sufficient to overcome the zero lower bound problem, and would severely undermine privacy. Allowing the public to hold reserves at central banks could reduce the need for deposit insurance, although the transition to the new regime and the effects on credit supply must be carefully considered.

Francesco Pappadà, Yanos Zylberberg, 03 February 2014

Greece’s austerity package included an unprecedented increase in the VAT rate, but the resulting increase in revenue was much lower than expected. This column links this disappointing result to the ‘transparency response’ of firms to higher tax rates. In countries like Greece with poor tax monitoring, firms face a tradeoff when deciding whether to declare their activity. Transparency is a necessary condition for accessing external finance, but it also means having to pay tax. Improving credit conditions for small and medium-size Greek firms might shift this tradeoff in favour of transparency.

Christopher Heady, 14 March 2011

Have governments been cutting the right taxes? And are they choosing the best taxes to increase now that they need to balance the books? Using data from 21 OECD countries, this column argues that the best taxes to cut early on are income taxes for low earners, while the best taxes to increase – later on – are property taxes and consumption taxes.

Ben Lockwood , John Whalley, 28 July 2008

Business worries that leading on climate change means lagging on competitiveness and propose linking carbon-cutting policies to tariffs. This column argues that lessons from the 1960s debate over VAT rates and border adjustments suggest that carbon-linked border adjustments may be ineffective and unnecessary.

André Sapir, 28 June 2007

France should beware of comparisons with Germany’s 'social VAT': France’s VAT rate is already 5% above Germany’s, the share of public spending in GDP is already nine percentage points above Germany’s, and Germany, unlike France, is fully committed to structural balance by 2010.

Richard Baldwin, 22 June 2007

The rising cost of VAT fraud has forced its way onto the agendas of Europe’s highest levels of government. This final instalment considers the solution that the German Presidency is pushing and argues that this “solution” may cause as many problems as it fixes.

Richard Baldwin, 18 June 2007

Criminals soon learned that the Single Market’s removal of internal border checks made VAT fraud easier and more profitable. The problem was recognised a decade ago and proposals to fix it abound. This instalment considers various solutions to the problem.

Richard Baldwin, 17 June 2007

Tax criminals employ a number of intricate schemes, some of which have been discovered and prosecuted. This third instalment in a five-part series looks at how the schemes work and at estimates of how much they are costing EU governments.

Richard Baldwin, 16 June 2007

EU governments are defrauded of millions of euros a year on intra-EU trade. This second instalment in a five-part series looks why VAT is especially vulnerable at the borders.

Richard Baldwin, 14 June 2007

Organised criminals earn millions from tax fraud while EU cooperation on the issue is gridlocked. This series of five columns looks at the problem and suggests that the German EU Presidency is pushing the wrong solution. This first instalment considers essential technical aspects of the VAT.


CEPR Policy Research