Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Taxes, taxes, taxes

Politicians frequently argue for lower taxes based on comparisons that, they claim, show citizens in their country pay more than citizens in other countries. It came up in the recent British election campaign. Here's a good analysis (details of the comparisons are in the article).

Tax on test: do Britons pay more than most?
A comparison of personal tax rates across Europe, Australia and the US by Guardian Money reveals how average earners in Britain on salaries of £25,000, or “middle-class” individuals on £40,000, enjoy among the lowest personal tax rates of the advanced countries, while high earners on £100,000 see less of their income taken in tax than almost anywhere else in Europe.

Our survey found that someone earning £100,000 in the UK in effect loses about 34.3% of their pay to HM Revenue & Customs once personal allowances, income tax and national insurance are taken into account. The one-third reduction is roughly the same as the US, Australia and Spain, but a long way behind the 38% in Germany, 41% in Ireland, 45% in Sweden and up to 59% in France (though the French figures include very large pension contributions).

Note that these figures are a rough guide only. International tax comparisons are bedevilled by large numbers of factors…

Some countries, such as the US, raise relatively large revenues from property taxes. Others squeeze revenue from sales taxes – 25% in Sweden, 19% in Germany. While there is some harmonisation of income tax rates, social security varies dramatically. Australia imposes a small medical levy of 2%. France’s charges can be as high as 30%…

EU officials may look forward to the day when the single currency is teamed up with a single tax policy. But what emerges from our survey is how elaborate each country’s tax and social security systems are. Britain’s actually looks relatively simple compared with France’s…

Higher earners [in the UK] pay income and social security taxes that are on a par with the US, Australia and Spain, but which are much less than those in France, Sweden and Ireland.

VAT, levied at a standard rate of 20%, is towards the lower end of sales tax rates across the EU, though council taxes are relatively high by comparison…

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed. Use the search box to look for country names or concept labels attached to each entry.

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