Sources of Tax Revenue: U.S. vs. OECD

April 25, 2019

A recent report on tax revenue sources shows the extent to which the United States and other OECD countries rely on different taxes for government revenues. Policy and economic differences among OECD countries have created differences in how they raise tax revenue, with the United States deviating quite substantially from the OECD average.

In the United States, individual income taxes (federal, state, and local) were the primary source of tax revenue in 2017, at 38.63 percent of total tax revenue. Social insurance taxes made up the second largest share, at 23.05 percent, followed by consumption taxes, at 15.85 percent, and property taxes, at 15.4 percent. Corporate income taxes accounted for 7.07 percent of total tax revenue.

sources of tax revenue in the United States, Us tax revenue by source 2019

Compared to the OECD average, the United States relied significantly more on individual income taxes and property taxes. While OECD countries on average raised 23.9 percent of total tax revenue from individual income taxes, the share in the United States was 38.6 percent, a difference of almost 15 percent. This is partially because more than half of business income in the United States is reported on individual tax returns. OECD countries on average raised 5.7 percent of total tax revenue from property taxes, compared to 15.4 percent in the United States.

The United States relied much less on consumption taxes than other OECD countries. Taxes on goods and services accounted for only 15.9 percent of total tax revenue in the United States, compared to 32.4 percent in the OECD. This is because all OECD countries, except the United States, levy value-added taxes (VAT) at relatively high rates. State and local sales tax rates in the United States are relatively low by comparison.

tax revenue by source, united states vs oecd government tax revenue sources 2017

Every country’s mix of taxes is different, depending on factors such as its economic situation and policy goals. However, each type of tax impacts the economy in a different way, with some taxes being more adverse than others. Generally, consumption-based taxes are a more efficient source of revenue because they create less economic damage and distortionary effects than taxes on income.

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