Globalisation and the effective taxation of capital versus labour

From VoxEU post by Pierre Bachas, Matthew Fisher-Post, Anders Jensen, and Gabriel Zucman:

Globalisation has wide-ranging effects on tax systems. This column uses a new dataset of taxes on capital and labour across countries and time to assess these dynamics. The authors document a global convergence of average effective labour and capital taxes over time, as labour taxes have increased and capital taxes fallen. However, the large fall in capital taxation in developed economies contrasts its gradual rise in developing economies, albeit from a low base. This trend is consistent with evidence suggesting the causal effect of trade integration on the tax capacity of developing economies.

Social scientists have for a long time been cognisant that globalisation may have deep impacts on tax systems. In particular, economists have conjectured that increased openness pushes governments to reduce taxes on mobile factors of production and recover the revenue shortfalls by increasing taxes on immobile factors (Bates et al. 1985, Rodrik 1997). In this view, globalisation erodes the taxes effectively paid by capital owners, shifting the tax burden towards workers. The fall of statutory tax rates on corporate income worldwide (IMF 2019), and evidence that globalisation reduces income tax rates on mobile high-income earners at the expense of median-income workers (Egger et al. 2019) support this hypothesis. Prior work has focused on the recent experience of high-income countries, but how has cross-border integration affected the relative taxation of labour and capital historically and globally? And which countries have been most affected by the erosion of effective capital taxation, and why? Answering these questions is critical to shed light on the macroeconomic effects and long-run social sustainability of globalisation. 

A new dataset to measure the effective taxation of capital and labour globally since the 1960s 

Assessing the extent to which globalisation has affected tax systems requires a global and long-run dataset on the taxation of capital and labour. In Bachas et al. (2022), we assemble data on effective tax rates (ETRs) on labour and capital covering 150 countries and half a century. Constructed following a common methodology, these series offer a worldwide, historical, and comparative perspective on the evolution of tax structures.1  

ETRs capture all taxes paid: on corporate income, individual income, payroll, property, inheritance, and consumption. They then assign each type of tax revenue to capital, labour or a mix of the two and divide these by their respective capital and labour flows in national accounts (Mendoza et al. 1994).2  ETRs thus make it possible to estimate total tax wedges – for instance, the gap between what it costs to employ a worker and what the worker receives – and how these wedges vary internationally and over time. Since capital income is always more concentrated than labour income, the relative taxation of the two factors of production is closely linked to the overall progressivity of the tax system.”

Continue reading here.

Posted by at 8:01 AM

Labels: Macro Demystified


Subscribe to: Posts