Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Tax reform for the 21st century

Owens, Jeffrey and Whitehouse, Edward (1996): Tax reform for the 21st century. Published in: Bulletin for International Fiscal Documentation , Vol. 50, No. 11/12 (1996)

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The 1980s were a decade of tax reform across OECD countries. The changes had many common themes. Top rates of personal income tax and rates of corporate income tax fell, but revenues were maintained by broadening the bases of these taxes. Seven countries introduced a value-added tax. Many countries that already had a VAT increased its rate. Social security contributions were increased in many countries. But the magnitude of past tax changes does not mean interest in tax reform has come to an end. First, many of the tax reforms failed fully to achieve their objectives: tax systems continue to distort economic decisions, they remain complex and the tax burden continues to rise. Secondly, some tax reforms may have had undesirable side effects, for example, on the distribution of income or the tax burden on labour. Thirdly, the agenda for tax reform has expanded to include issues such as environmental taxes, the communications revolution and commercial growth of the Internet and the relationships between taxation, investment, economic growth and jobs. And the G7, OECD and European Union are committed to addressing international tax issues, especially the extent of harmful tax competition.

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