Tax Expenditures in OECD Countries

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Author(s):
OECD
Publication Date :
05 Jan 2010
Pages :
242
ISBN :
9789264076907 (PDF) ; 9789264076891 (print)
DOI :
10.1787/9789264076907-en

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In all OECD countries, governments collect revenues through taxes and redistribute this public money, often by obligatory spending on social programmes such as education or health care. Their tax systems usually include "tax expenditures" – provisions that allow certain groups of people, such as small businessmen, retired people or working mothers, or those who have undertaken certain activities, such as charitable donations, to pay less in taxes.

The use of tax expenditures by governments is pervasive and growing. At a time when many government budgets are threatened by population ageing and adverse cyclical developments, there is a pressing need to avoid inefficient government programmes, some of which may utilise tax expenditures.

This book sheds light on the use of tax expenditures, mainly through a study of ten OECD countries: Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States. This book will help government officials and the public better understand some of the technical and policy issues behind the use of tax expenditures. It highlights key trends and successful practices, and addresses a broad range of government finance issues, including tax policy making, tax and budget efficiency, fiscal responsibility and rule making.

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    Foreword
    In all OECD member countries, governments collect revenues through taxes and redistribute this public money, often by obligatory spending on social programmes such as education or health care. Their tax systems usually include "tax expenditures" – provisions that allow certain groups of people, such as small businessmen, retired people or working mothers, or those who have undertaken certain activities, such as charitable donations, to pay less in taxes.
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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts A look at tax expenditures

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      Introduction
      This chapter gives a brief introduction and history of tax expenditures. It begins by attempting to define tax expenditures then proceeds to discuss the different types of tax expenditures. There is a short discussion on the different ways to measure them. It then gives several concrete examples of tax expenditures in different countries. It concludes by discussing some of the controversy concerning tax expenditures.
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      Policy background and practices
      This chapter explains why tax expenditures are adopted and when they might work well. It then discusses the different theoretical allegations of negative effects of tax expenditures. Next, it explains the multiplication and growth of tax expenditures. It continues by discussing the special case of "make work pay" tax expenditures. Finally, it discusses policy making processes involved in implementing tax expenditures, such as reporting, review and oversight, and legislative process and enactment.
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      The role of tax expenditures in the budget process
      This chapter discusses the role of tax expenditures in the budget process. Allowing the enactment of new tax expenditures without careful consideration of measurement issues and of regular review and oversight would make subsequent budget control much harder. A key question is how budget control processes can be designed to put tax expenditures on equal footing with spending decisions. It could be argued that a properly configured spending rule would be more effective than a deficit rule, both in maintaining fiscal balance and in creating incentives to control tax expenditures.
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      Country profiles: Methods, institutions and data
      This chapter presents summary comparisons of ten countries’ (Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden the United Kingdom and the United States) description of their own concepts and methods in defining and measuring tax expenditures, in order to provide a greater understanding of how different countries define, measure, review, and control tax expenditures It goes on to describe each country’s institutions and practices that are relevant to the making of tax policy in the budgetary context. For most countries, it gives a count and a tabulation of measured tax expenditures, as shares of GDP and relative to aggregate revenues. It disaggregates tax expenditures under income taxes into a standardised set of budget purposes or functions. It attempts to compensate for differences across countries in categorisations of provisions as "structural" rather than as tax expenditures.
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      Conclusions
      This chapter draws conclusions of the comparison of the ten countries under review. It discusses the differences between countries in defining tax expenditures and concludes that there are some commonalities. It then turns to the differences between countries concerning what types of taxes are measured. It continues by explaining the differences in benchmark tax systems each country uses in order to define their tax expenditures. It includes an analysis of the different concepts, methods, reporting, policy making and review, make work pay programmes, and the number and amount of tax expenditures, among the nine different countries studied in this report.
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    Comparing tax expenditures in OECD countries
    The left-hand side of each country table reflects the tax expenditures as closely as possible to each country’s own intended presentation. Every tax expenditure identified by each country is included. Provisions identified by two countries (Canada and the United Kingdom) as "memorandum items", which are not considered to be tax expenditures, are listed separately.
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    Data sources
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