Tax Expenditures in OECD Countries

image of Tax Expenditures in OECD Countries
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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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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