The COVID-19 shocks are proving to be especially challenging for fragile states. Pre-COVID, fiscal revenues were low in such countries and governments were struggling to raise them. Now, COVID-19 is hitting them hard and fiscal revenues are falling. Once the pandemic abates, restoring and further enhancing tax collection is even more important to secure debt sustainability, facilitate the post-COVID-19 recovery, and meet development financing needs in order to meet the Sustainable Development Goals. This is a formidable challenge. However, our new staff research finds that achieving sizable gains in tax collection in fragile environments is not “mission impossible.”
As our chart shows, four fragile states (Liberia, Malawi, Nepal, and Solomon Islands) achieved sizable increases in tax revenues over a decade—by between 7 and 20 percentage points of GDP. Most of these countries had introduced tax reforms when their tax revenues were far below the average for fragile states, but each went on to exceed the average, with Nepal and Solomon Islands doing so by a wide margin.
These experiences emphasize the importance of sustained tax reform efforts. In these cases, tax reforms were pursued over extended […]
Over the past decade, inequality has become one of the most complex and vexing challenges in the global economy.
Inequality of opportunity. Inequality across generations. Inequality between women and men. And, of course, inequality of income and wealth . They are all present in our societies and—unfortunately— in many countries they are […]
September 1, 2017
Versions in Español (Spanish)
U.S. lawmakers getting ready to rewrite the nation’s tax code have a fundamental question to answer: What are the priorities for tax reform? Do you want faster growth? Less income inequality? A tax cut that doesn’t increase the budget deficit? In a recent working paper, we find that, depending on how a tax cut is targeted, it is possible to make some progress toward the first two objectives. Personal income tax cuts can help support growth and, if well targeted, can also help improve income distribution. However, we find that lowering personal income tax rates does not raise growth enough to offset the revenue loss that is caused by the tax cut itself. […]
In recent years, citizens’ concerns about allegations of corruption in the public sector have become more visible and widespread. From São Paulo to Johannesburg, citizens have taken to the streets against graft. In countries like Chile, Guatemala, India, Iraq, Malaysia and Ukraine, they are sending a clear and loud message to their leaders: Address corruption!
Policymakers are paying attention too. Discussing corruption has long been a sensitive topic at inter-governmental organizations like the International Monetary Fund. But earlier this month at its Annual Meetings in Lima, Peru, the IMF hosted a refreshingly frank discussion on the subject. The panel session provided a stimulating debate on definitions of corruption, its direct and indirect consequences, and strategies for addressing it, including the role that individuals and institutions such as the IMF can play. This blog gives a flavor of the discussion.
(Versions in عربي)
Since the global financial crisis, policymakers have sought to press the “reset” button to strengthen financial intermediation that is performed by conventional banks and non-bank financial institutions. The aim has been to address the fault lines that helped trigger one of the most devastating financial crises in a century, and to enable a more inclusive, stable financial system that promotes stability as well as economic development and growth.
Islamic finance offers several features that are consistent with these objectives. Islamic finance refers to financial services that conform with Islamic jurisprudence, or Shari’ah, which bans interest, speculation, gambling and short-sales; requires fair treatment; and institutes sanctity of contracts. And these principles hold the promise of supporting financial stability, since a key tenet of Islamic finance is that lenders should share in both the risks and rewards of the projects and loans they finance.
By Deniz Igan
(Version in Español)
Something unusual happened this year. For the first time in almost ten years, a book by an economist made it to Amazon’s Top 10 list. Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century captured the attention of people from all walks of life because it echoed what an increasing number of Americans have been feeling: the rich keep getting richer and poverty in America is a mainstream problem.
The numbers illustrate the troubling reality. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 1 in 6 Americans—almost 50 million people—are living in poverty. Recent research documents that nearly 40 percent of American adults will spend at least one year in poverty by the time they reach 60. During 1968–2000, the risk was less than 20 percent. More devastatingly, 1 in 5 children currently live in poverty and, during their childhood, roughly 1 in 3 Americans will spend at least one year living below the poverty line.
By Michael Keen
It’s hard to pick up a newspaper these days (or, more likely for readers of blogs, to skim one online) without finding another story about some multinational corporation managing, as if by magic, to pay little corporate tax. What lets them do this, of course, are the tax rules that countries themselves set. A new paper takes a closer look at this issue, which is at the heart of the IMF’s mandate: the way tax rules spill over national boundaries, and what this means for macroeconomic performance and economic development. These effects, the paper argues, are pretty powerful and need to be discussed on a global level.
Follow the money
Take, for instance, international capital movements. Though tax is not the only explanation, the foreign direct investment (FDI) positions shown in Table 1 are hard to understand without also knowing that tax arrangements in several of these countries make them attractive conduits through which to route investments. In its share of the world’s FDI, for example, the Netherlands leads the world; and tiny Mauritius […]