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This note series is intended to summarize good practices and key policy findings on poverty reduction and economic management (PREM) topics.
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Taxing Business(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2009-06) Bird, Richard M.Economists are sometimes accused of agreeing on almost nothing. An important policy question on which many economists appear to agree, however, is that there is not much to be said in favor of taxing business and especially not internationally mobile corporations. The reason for such unanimity is primarily the substantial economic costs associated with business taxes, although the uncertainty as to whom really 'pays' such taxes in terms of their final incidence may also contribute to the disdain in which they are generally held by economists. But the world largely ignores conventional economic wisdom: people everywhere seems delighted to load as much of their tax burden as possible on "business" and particularly on large impersonal corporations.
The Personal Income Tax(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2009-06) Bird, Richard M.A recent paper argues persuasively that the two basic pillars of taxation in most countries are the income tax and the VAT (Barreix and Roca 2007). The authors argue that the VAT is excellent as a revenue raiser and works best if it is applied in the simplest and most neutral fashion possible that is, on as broad a base as possible and preferably at a uniform rate. Given the relative unimportance of personal income taxes in most developing countries this argument is at first sight perhaps somewhat surprising. Personal income tax (PIT) revenues are often three to four times corporate tax revenues in developed countries, but in developing countries corporate tax revenues usually substantially exceed PIT revenues. As a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP), PIT revenues in developed countries average about seven percent of GDP as compared to about two percent for developing countries. Moreover, as Bird and Zolt (2005) note, in many developing countries personal income taxes often amount to little more than taxes on labor income. At the same time, although little revenue is received from capital income, income taxes often impose high marginal effective rates on investment and hence discourage growth.
Taxing Consumption(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2009-06) Bird, Richard M.Domestic consumption in most countries is taxed through general sales taxes, excise taxes on specific commodities, and a variety of miscellaneous taxes on such services as hotels and transfers of property. This note considers only the first two of these categories, with particular attention to general sales taxes. Consumption taxes are obviously related both to customs duties and other taxes on imports and also to production taxes like those often imposed on agricultural output. In some countries elements of both import and production taxation remains. These aspects are not further explored in this note other than to note that the original form of general sales taxes often consisted of a sales tax imposed on imported and domestic manufactured goods. Most countries have now replaced such 'pre-retail' sales taxes by taxes that fall primarily on consumption rather than on production and, both more responsive to revenue needs and easier to collect effectively and efficiently. However, excise taxes on specific commodities are often still imposed at the production stage.
Improving Taxpayer Service and Facilitating Compliance in Singapore(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2000-12) Bird, Richard M. ; Oldman, OliverOver the past ten years, the government of Singapore has sought to modernize and computerize Singapore. Tax administration was one area of public administration that clearly required modernization. In 1992 the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) was created to administer income and property taxes and a new value added tax called the Goods and Services Tax. Planning began to develop an integrated, computerized approach tax administration, which was soon reorganized on functional lines. This process has had made impressive results. In a survey, 95 percent of individual taxpayers, 83 percent of corporate taxpayers, and 93 percent of goods and services taxpayers said they were satisfied with IRAS services. This note discusses what Singapore has done to improve the taxpayer service and how it was done.