IMF, OECD, UN AND WORLD BANK – OPTIONS FOR LOW INCOME COUNTRIES’ EFFECTIVE AND EFFICIENT USE OF TAX INCENTIVES FOR INVESTMENT
IMF, OECD, UN AND WORLD BANK – OPTIONS FOR LOW INCOME COUNTRIES’ EFFECTIVE AND EFFICIENT USE OF TAX INCENTIVES FOR INVESTMENT. A REPORT TO THE G-20 DEVELOPMENT WORKING GROUP BY THE IMF, OECD, UN AND WORLD BANK. This report was prepared at the request of the G20 Development Working Group by the staffs of the International Monetary Fund, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the United Nations and the World Bank. It has benefitted from consultation with other organisations working in the tax area, officials of developing countries, Civil Society Organisations, and business representatives. The report is prepared under the responsibility of the Secretariats and Staff of the four organisations. It reflects a broad consensus among these staff, but should not necessarily be regarded as the officially-endorsed views of those organisations or their member states. The report was presented as requested to the G20 DWG in September, 2015, and to the Executive Board of the IMF for information, in October, 2015. Experience shows that there is often ample room for more effective and efficient use of investment tax incentives in low-income countries. Tax incentives generally rank low in investment climate surveys in low-income countries, and there are many examples in which they are reported to be redundant—that is, investment would have been undertaken even without them. And their fiscal cost can be high, reducing opportunities for much-needed public spending on infrastructure, public services or social support, or requiring higher taxes on other activities. Effective and efficient use of tax incentives requires that they be carefully designed. Many low-income countries use costly tax holidays and income tax exemptions to attract investment, while investment tax credits and accelerated depreciation yield more investment per dollar spent. Tax incentives targeted at sectors producing for domestic markets or extractive industries generally have little impact, while those geared toward export-oriented sectors and mobile capital appear to be relatively effective – but the former need to be tempered by considerations of WTO consistency and both can be instances of mutually damaging tax competition. Enabling conditions – good infrastructure, macroeconomic stability, rule of law, etc.- are important for effectiveness. Good governance of incentives is critical for their effectiveness and efficiency. Transparency is necessary to facilitate accountability and reduce opportunities for rent seeking and corruption. Tax incentives should therefore be subject to legislative process, consolidated under the tax law, and their fiscal costs reviewed annually as part of a tax-expenditure review. The approval process of tax incentives may involve several stakeholders, but is ultimately best consolidated under the authority of the Minister of Finance and enforced and monitored by the tax administration. To the extent possible, the granting of tax incentives should be based on rules rather than discretion. Despite political obstacles, several countries have successfully reformed their tax incentive regimes. The proliferation of incentives is largely a manifestation of international tax competition—which regional coordination can help mitigate, although this requires political commitment and an effective supranational enforcement mechanism—which is often lacking. Common reporting standards and data collection can be an important first step toward coordination and enhanced transparency. More systematic evaluations are needed to facilitate informed decision making. In most low-income countries, the effectiveness and efficiency of tax incentives cannot be assessed due to lack of data and the absence of analytical tools and skills. The background document to this report offers guidance on how to develop the data and tools required for systematic analysis. Progress requires concerted action by several stakeholders to ensure evidence-based, transparent decision making.