Tax Competition Pushing Down Personal Tax Rates

Politicians love to figure out ways to rape and pillage minorities in order to win votes from majorities, and this is why class-warfare tax policy is a common tactic. Fortunately, globalization is making it more difficult for politicians to implement punitive tax laws. When rates become too high, it is now increasingly easy for productive resources - including labor - to escape across national borders. This is leading politicians, even in places such as France and Germany, to lower top tax rates. In our new book, Global Tax Revolution, Chris Edwards and I explain how this process of tax competition is an amazing liberalizing force in the world economy. But for those of you who inexplicably don’t want to buy our book, this excerpt from a report in Tax-news.com provides ample evidence:

Top personal income tax rates around the world have fallen by an average of 2.5% in the past six years, as governments strive to balance their need for revenue with the impact of increasing global labor mobility, a new study from KPMG International has found. Worldwide, top personal tax rates have fallen from an average of 31.3% in 2003 to 28.8% in 2008. But European Union (EU) taxpayers still pay the highest rates, at an average of 36.4%, followed by taxpayers in the Asia Pacific countries with an average of 34.6% and those of Latin America at 26.9%, KPMG said. At a country level, the highest tax rates in the world are paid by the people of Denmark, with a top rate of 59% for the whole six years, followed by those of Sweden, whose rate came down last year from 57% to 55%, and those of the Netherlands, who have paid 52% for the whole period. Excluding those countries which levy no tax at all, the lowest EU rate is in Bulgaria, with a newly introduced flat rate of 10%, down from 24%. In Asia Pacific the lowest is in Hong Kong, with 16% and in Latin America it is in Paraguay with 10%. Of the 87 countries surveyed, 33 have cut their rates in the past six years and only seven have a higher top rate in 2008 than they did in 2003. Among the large western European economies, France has made the most significant cut in its rates, from 48.1% in 2003 to 40% in 2007. Germany has gone from 48.5% to 45%, having briefly stood at 42% in 2005 and 2006. But across the EU it has been the introduction of flat rate taxes in the Eastern European states that has had the most impact, KPMG said. As well as Bulgaria’s new flat rate of 10%: Estonia has cut its rates from 26% in 2003 to a flat 21% in 2008; Slovakia has gone from 38% to a flat 19%; Lithuania last year fell 6 points to 27% and this year a further 3 points to a flat 24%; Romania has cut rates from 40% to a flat 16%; and the Czech Republic, this year, introduced a flat rate tax set at 15%. In the Asia Pacific region, tax competition between Hong Kong and Singapore has led Singapore to cut its rate from 22% for 2003 to 21% in 2006 and 20% in 2007. …”Australia also cut its personal tax rate by two points to 45% last year,” said Rosheen Garnon, head of KPMG’s International Executive Services practice and a partner in the Australian firm, “but if the intention was to attract back high value Australian workers who have temporarily moved to Hong Kong or Singapore, it may not be enough.” …Mexico and Panama stand out for their steady, year-on-year reductions. In the past six years, Panama has gone in stages from 33% to 22%, while Mexico has gone from 34% to 28%. …”We do not foresee a time when personal income taxes will fall so far that they become irrelevant to people moving from country to country. But it is entirely possible that the relative level of indirect taxes will begin to play a much greater part in people’s decisions on where in the world to go for work,” Garnon concluded.