Tax Expenditures in OECD Countries

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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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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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