About half of all European OECD countries have either announced, proposed, or implemented a digital services tax.
Elke Asen was a Policy Analyst with the Tax Foundation’s Center for Global Tax Policy, focusing on international tax issues and tax policy in Europe. Prior to joining the Tax Foundation, Elke interned with the EU Delegation in Washington, D.C., the German Development Agency, and a social startup in Munich, Germany. She holds a BS in Economics from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich.
Elke was born and raised in a small town of 500 people outside of Salzburg, Austria, and loves to travel. Road tripping and backpacking are her favorites.
Despite ongoing multilateral negotiations in the OECD, about half of all European OECD countries have either announced, proposed, or implemented their own unilateral digital services tax.
A well-structured tax code (that’s both competitive and neutral) is easy for taxpayers to comply with and can promote economic development while raising sufficient revenue for a government’s priorities.
In the past three years, eight European OECD countries changed their top personal income tax rate, of which four of them cut their top personal income tax rates.
Patent box regimes (also referred to as intellectual property, or IP, regimes) provide lower effective tax rates on income derived from IP. Most commonly, eligible types of IP are patents and software copyrights. Currently, 14 of the 27 EU member states have a patent box regime.
Ireland and France levy the highest excise duties on cigarettes in the EU, at €8.42 ($9.60) and €6.61 ($7.53) per 20-cigarette pack, respectively. This compares to an EU average of €3.34 ($3.80). Bulgaria (€1.81 or $2.06) and Poland (€2.08 or $2.37) levy the lowest excise duties.
As one might expect, southern European countries that are well-known for their wines—such as France, Greece, Portugal, and Spain—either don’t tax it or do so at a very low rate. But travel north and you’ll see countries that tend to levy taxes on wine—and often hefty taxes.
Finland has the highest excise tax on beer in Europe, followed by Ireland and the United Kingdom. Compare beer taxes in Europe this International Beer Day
New data clearly points to an increase in tax complexity for multinationals in the OECD as well as globally. The OECD’s ongoing efforts to reform the international tax system will likely further add complexity to the international tax environment.
The United Nations (UN) recently released its annual “World Investment Report,” which shows the dramatic fall in global foreign direct investment (FDI) caused by the COVID-19 crisis.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, several OECD countries temporarily expanded their NOL carrybacks and carryforwards to provide relief to illiquid but otherwise solvent businesses. These policies should be made permanent and, where necessary, expanded.
Lawmakers around the world are considering substantial changes to international tax rules to address tax avoidance. Many changes have already been made in recent years, with early economic evidence indicating that they may not only address tax avoidance but also impact business hiring and investment decisions.
Corporate income taxes are commonly levied as a flat rate on business profits. However, some countries provide reduced corporate income tax rates for small businesses. Out of 27 European OECD countries covered in today’s map, eight levy a reduced corporate tax rate on businesses that have revenues or profits below a certain threshold.
In recent years, several countries have taken measures to reduce carbon emissions, including instituting environmental regulations, emissions trading systems (ETS), and carbon taxes.
Most countries provide tax relief to families with children—typically through targeted tax breaks that lower income taxes. While all European OECD countries provide tax relief for families, its extent varies substantially across countries.
To encourage private retirement savings, OECD countries commonly provide tax-preferred retirement accounts. However, in many countries, including the United States, the system of tax-preferred retirement accounts is complex, which may deter savers from using such accounts—and potentially lower overall savings.
Most countries’ personal income taxes have a progressive structure, meaning that the tax rate paid by individuals increases as they earn higher wages. The highest tax rate individuals pay differs significantly across Europe, with Denmark (55.9 percent), France (55.4 percent), and Austria (55 percent) having the highest top statutory personal income tax rates among European OECD countries.
Estate tax is levied on the property of the deceased and is paid by the estate itself. Inheritance taxes, in contrast, are only levied on the value of assets transferred and are paid by the heirs. Gift taxes are levied when property is transferred by a living individual. The majority of European countries covered in today’s map currently levy estate, inheritance, or gift taxes.