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The Distributional Effects of Consumption Taxes in OECD Countries

image of The Distributional Effects of Consumption Taxes in OECD Countries

The report examines the distributional effects of value-added tax (VAT) and excise tax systems in 20 OECD countries, and investigates the effectiveness of reduced VAT rates as a redistributional tool.

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The distributional effects of consumption taxes

This chapter examines the distributional effects of value-added tax (VAT) and excise tax systems in 20 OECD countries. The analysis is based on consumption tax micro-simulation models constructed for each country using household expenditure micro-data. Results show that VAT systems are regressive when measured as a percentage of income, but are generally either proportional or slightly progressive when measured as a percentage of expenditure. Total excise tax burdens (on alcohol, tobacco and transport fuels) are shown to be almost always regressive when measured as a percentage of income, and in most cases to be either regressive or roughly proportional when measured as a percentage of expenditure. In interpreting these results, the report argues that an income-base approach may be of interest in analysing the immediate distributional effects of consumption taxes, but that an expenditure-base approach will provide a more reliable measure of the lifetime distributional effects. The results therefore challenge the general public perception that VAT systems are regressive, at least in a lifetime context. That said, results for Estonia, New Zealand and the Slovak Republic highlight that broad-based VAT systems that have few reduced VAT rates or exemptions can still produce a small degree of regressivity when expenditure is used as a proxy for lifetime income. Meanwhile, results for Chile, the Czech Republic, Korea and the Slovak Republic show that excise taxes can in some cases be progressive in a lifetime context.

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