Taxation

Michael P. Devereux, Clemens Fuest, Ben Lockwood , 12 June 2015

Tax avoidance by multinational firms is a complex challenge for national governments and the global tax system. Increasingly, high-income countries have been moving from foreign tax credit systems, to exempting foreign source income from domestic taxation. This column investigates how foreign profits should be taxed, taking into account the economic role of capital ownership. Domestic tax rates should ensure optimal allocation between domestic and foreign assets, while the tax base should be set to ensure asset purchases are undistorted. Countries may be forced to change their tax systems in more fundamental ways, however, as the mobility and flexibility of multinational corporations continues to grow.

Marius Brülhart, Helen Simpson, 12 June 2015

The evidence on how industry-level agglomeration affects government taxation is mixed. This column argues that local governments offer subsidies to favour pre-existing employment in locally agglomerated industries. This finding is in line with theories of policy capture rather than government taxation of agglomeration benefits. 

Ravi Kanbur, Michael Keen, 05 June 2015

The ‘informal’ economy presents a key challenge for developing-nation policymakers due to its labour-market and tax-revenue implications. Informality is usually defined as the complement to formality, i.e. any activity that isn’t covered by a clear set of laws. This column argues that such a definition risks obscuring more than it reveals, by failing to understand and address the varieties of informality that exist. Sensible policy should focus on tailored interventions across different categories of taxpayer, not on reducing aggregate informality.

Alberto Alesina, Matteo Paradisi, 29 May 2015

Most of us intuitively believe that politicians reduce taxes and increase spending in the run up to elections to curry favour with voters. But our logic may well be flawed. This column presents evidence from recent Italian elections suggesting that things aren’t so black and white. Yes, some municipalities set lower tax rates in the run up to elections. But the evidence also suggests that municipalities running deficits will think twice about tax breaks and spending sprees. Politicians in big cities are also more cautious, choosing to focus not on tax but on more pressing local issues.

Ufuk Akcigit, Salome Baslandze, Stefanie Stantcheva, 27 April 2015

Taxing high earners is an issue of growing importance in many nations. One concern is that raising rates will lead high earners to move elsewhere. This column suggests that top-tier inventors are significantly affected by top tax rates when deciding where to live. The loss of these highly skilled agents could entail significant economic costs in terms of lost tax revenues and less overall innovation.

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