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Chile’s Tax Reform Heads in the Wrong Direction

4 min readBy: Cristina Enache

The TaxA tax is a mandatory payment or charge collected by local, state, and national governments from individuals or businesses to cover the costs of general government services, goods, and activities. Foundation recently released the 2022 International Tax Competitiveness Index (ITCI), measuring the complexity and neutrality of countries’ tax systems.

Over the years, Chile has consistently remained in the lower half of the Index’s rankings, and in the 2022 version of the Index, Chile fell from 26th to 27th (out of 38 countries) due to a drop in its individual tax score and a slight decrease in its consumption taxA consumption tax is typically levied on the purchase of goods or services and is paid directly or indirectly by the consumer in the form of retail sales taxes, excise taxes, tariffs, value-added taxes (VAT), or an income tax where all savings is tax-deductible. score.

Chile’s 2022 International Tax Competitiveness Index Score and Ranking by Category
Category Score (out of 100) Ranking (out of 38)
Overall 61.9 27
Corporate Income Tax 68.6 13
Individual Taxes 52.9 34
Consumption Taxes 72.5 11
Property Taxes 67.6 13
International Tax System 35.6 38
Source: Tax Foundation, 2022 International Tax Competitiveness Index.

Chile scores relatively well on consumption tax policy, ranking 11th. More than 62.6 percent of consumption is covered by the VAT and there is no general VAT tax exemptionA tax exemption excludes certain income, revenue, or even taxpayers from tax altogether. For example, nonprofits that fulfill certain requirements are granted tax-exempt status by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), preventing them from having to pay income tax. threshold. This allows for an overall moderate VAT rate of 19 percent.

Chile has a particularly weak score for individual income taxation. On one hand, the tax rate on capital gains is 40 percent, well above the OECD average of 19 percent. On the other, Chile has the second lowest tax wedgeA tax wedge is the difference between total labor costs to the employer and the corresponding net take-home pay of the employee. It is also an economic term that refers to the economic inefficiency resulting from taxes. on labor among OECD countries at 7 percent, compared to the OECD average of 34.6 percent.

Chile also scores badly on its cross-border tax component. Chile has a worldwide tax systemA worldwide tax system for corporations, as opposed to a territorial tax system, includes foreign-earned income in the domestic tax base. As part of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), the United States shifted from worldwide taxation towards territorial taxation. , while most OECD countries have territorial provisions. Additionally, Chile levies one of the highest dividend and interest withholdingWithholding is the income an employer takes out of an employee’s paycheck and remits to the federal, state, and/or local government. It is calculated based on the amount of income earned, the taxpayer’s filing status, the number of allowances claimed, and any additional amount of the employee requests. rates, requiring firms to withhold 35 percent of a dividend or interest payment paid to foreign entities or persons. These taxes make investment more costly both for investors, who will receive a lower return on dividends, and for firms, which must pay a higher amount in interest or royalty payments to compensate for the cost of the withholding taxes. These taxes also reduce funds available for investment and production and increase the cost of capital. While tax treaties between countries can either reduce or eliminate withholding taxes, Chile has a relatively small tax treaty network of just 33 treaties.

Another weakness of the Chilean tax system is its corporate tax component where Chile ranks 13th. This is mainly because at 27 percent, the corporate tax rate is significantly above the OECD average of 23.6 percent. However, as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Chile temporarily reduced its corporate income taxA corporate income tax (CIT) is levied by federal and state governments on business profits. Many companies are not subject to the CIT because they are taxed as pass-through businesses, with income reportable under the individual income tax. rate to 10 percent for smaller businesses. Additionally, it temporarily allowed businesses to immediately write off investments in buildings and machinery and to immediately amortize intangibles.

Boric’s Tax Reform Will Deter Economic Growth and Reduce Chile’s Tax Competitiveness

Chilean President Gabriel Boric has launched an ambitious tax reform plan seeking to raise additional revenue of about 3.6 percent of GDP. The latest draft of the bill caps at 50 percent the current unlimited use of carry-forward tax losses, raises the top marginal dividend tax rate from 33.3 percent to 43.06 percent, and proposes an additional 2.5 percent tax on top of the undistributed profits tax. Additionally, the reform also proposes a new wealth taxA wealth tax is imposed on an individual’s net wealth, or the market value of their total owned assets minus liabilities. A wealth tax can be narrowly or widely defined, and depending on the definition of wealth, the base for a wealth tax can vary. and an increase in mining royalties.

If these policies are implemented, they will reduce the country’s overall ranking in the 2023 ITCI from 27th to 35th (out of 38 countries). The corporate income tax rank will fall from 13th to 17th, the property taxA property tax is primarily levied on immovable property like land and buildings, as well as on tangible personal property that is movable, like vehicles and equipment. Property taxes are the single largest source of state and local revenue in the U.S. and help fund schools, roads, police, and other services. rank will drop from 13th to 25th and the individual income rank will drop from 34th to 35th. And they might not raise the 3.6 percent of GDP projected revenue.

The temporary policies introduced during the pandemic to spur capital investment were timely, but temporary policies are generally not a helpful approach to generating long-term growth. Additionally, the new tax reform will wipe out most of the Chilean tax code’s few strengths.

As Chile looks to the future, the accelerated deductions for capital investment costs should be extended and made permanent while unnecessary tax hikes on individuals and capital should be avoided. Policymakers should focus on growth-oriented tax policy that encourages investment, savings, and entrepreneurial activity, increasing Chile’s international tax competitiveness.