Paying Taxes 2011: The Global Picture

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This is the sixth year that the World Bank and IFC’s Doing Business project has included the “paying taxes” indicator. The indicator measures the ease of paying taxes in 183 economies around the world. Besides paying taxes, the Doing Business project provides quantitative measures of regulations in eight other areas: starting a business, dealing with construction permits, registering property, getting credit, protecting investors, trading across borders, enforcing contracts, and closing a business. In addition, data are presented for regulations on employing workers and, for a set of pilot indicators, on getting electricity.

The paying taxes indicator measures tax systems from the point of view of a domestic company complying with the different tax laws and regulations in each economy. The case study company is a small to medium-size manufacturer and retailer, deliberately chosen to ensure that its business can be identified with and compared worldwide.

The indicator covers the cost of taxes borne by the case study company and the administrative burden of tax compliance for the firm. Both are important for business. They are measured using three sub-indicators: the total tax rate (the cost of all taxes borne), the time needed to comply with the major taxes (profit taxes, labour taxes and mandatory contributions, and consumption taxes), and the number of tax payments.

The paying taxes indicator measures all taxes and contributions mandated by government at any level (federal, state, or local) as they apply to the standardised business. The total tax rate sub-indicator measures the impact of taxes and contributions that are borne by the company which impact the company’s financial statements. It includes the corporate income tax, social contributions and labour taxes paid by the employer, property taxes, property transfer taxes, dividend tax, capital gains tax, financial transactions tax, waste collection taxes, and vehicle and road taxes. The other two sub-indicators, on the time to comply and number of payments measure taxes borne and taxes collected, and so include taxes and contributions withheld or collected, such as sales tax or value added tax (VAT).

Between June 2009 and May 2010, 40 economies made it easier to pay taxes as measured by Doing Business.

  • Paying taxes is getting easier. In the past six years more than 60% of the economies covered by Doing Business made paying taxes easier
  • For the economies included in both the 2006 and 2011 Paying Taxes studies, the tax cost has fallen on average by 5.0%, the time needed to comply by a week, and the number of payments by almost four.
  • Practices which have helped improve the results include effective electronic filing and payment systems (used in 60 economies), having one tax per base rather than multiple taxes (50 economies have one tax per base) and using a filing system based on self-assessment (74% of economies do this)
  • The most improved economy was Tunisia, which fully implemented electronic payment systems for corporate income tax and value added tax and broadened their use to most firms. The changes reduced the number of payments a year as measured by Doing Business by 14 and compliance time by 84 hours.
  • As in previous years, the most popular measure was to reduce profit tax rates.
  • Around the world on average, the case study company faces a Total Tax Rate (percentage of profit paid out in taxes) of 47.8% and spends 282 hours a year, and makes 29.9 tax payments, to comply with tax laws.
  • On average around the world, the case study company pays more than nine different taxes. On average, corporate income tax accounts for only 38 percent of the Total Tax Rate, 25 percent of the time to comply and 12 percent of tax payments. In 2009/10, 17 economies reduced corporate income tax rates
  • In the last year, the most change was seen in Central Asia and Eastern Europe where the Total Tax Rate dropped by 3.1%, the time to comply by 16 hours, and the number of payments by five
  • The time to comply with tax requirements varies between regions. It takes the least time to comply in the OECD (209 hours) and the European Union (222 hours), with the longest time needed in Central Asia and Eastern Europe (332 hours), the G20 (370 hours), and Latin America and the Caribbean (385 hours).
  • The number of payments also varies widely by region. The company makes the most payments in Central Europe and Eastern Europe, 45.3 a year on average. It makes the fewest in OECD economies, just 13.2 on average.
  • It takes the case study company longest to comply with consumption taxes, especially VAT. VAT is the predominant form of consumption tax used around the world (148 out of the 183 economies have a VAT type sales tax system). For these economies, it takes nearly 64% as much time again to comply with VAT as it does to comply with corporate income tax.
  • Survey respondents identified the way tax audits and disputes are dealt with and the approach of the tax authorities as the aspects of the tax system most in need of improvement.
Regional details – Asia Pacific
  • Nine economies in the Asia Pacific region implemented reforms to make paying taxes easier in 2009/10. (Brunei Darussalam, China, Hong Kong (China), India, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Taiwan (China),Thailand and Tonga).
  • The Paying Taxes results for the Asia Pacific region are lower than the world average across all three sub-indicators. The average TTR is 36.9% (compared to the world average of 47.8%), the average time to comply is 233 hours (world average: 282), and average the number of payments 24.6 (world average: 29.9).
  • Corporate income taxes are a significant part of the burden. They account for 51.2% of the TTR in the Asia Pacific region, compared to a world average of 33.8% - this is a higher proportion than in any other region. They also account for 32% of compliance time which again is the highest proportion of any region.
  • The number of taxes levied on the company averages nine globally. The average in the Asia Pacific region is 8.5, ranging from 3 in Hong Kong to 20 in Japan.
  • Consumption taxes do not generally add to the tax cost for our case study company but they do add considerably to the compliance burden. It takes longer to comply with consumption taxes in the Asia-Pacific region than with any other taxes. On average it takes 84 hours, compared with 75 hours for labour taxes and social contributions, and 75 hours for profit taxes