The taxation of personal savings and wealth varies widely, offering governments significant scope for tax reforms that simultaneously improve both the efficiency and fairness of their tax systems, according to two new OECD reports.

The reports, Taxation of Household Savings and The Role and Design of Net Wealth Taxes, recognise that taxes are among the most effective tools governments have for reducing inequalities and bringing about more inclusive growth.

“While countries do not necessarily need to tax savings more, there is a lot of room to improve the way countries tax savings,” said Pascal Saint-Amans, director of the OECD Centre for Tax Policy and Administration.  “There is also a very strong case to be made for addressing income and wealth inequality through the tax system, notably by ensuring effective taxation of capital. Governments have an opportunity to increase both the efficiency and fairness of their tax systems, and these reports outline concrete measures to help achieve this” Mr Saint-Amans said.

Taxation of Household Savings

The report Taxation of Household Savings provides a detailed review of the way savings are taxed in the 35 OECD countries and five key partner countries (Argentina, Bulgaria, Colombia, Lithuania and South Africa). It finds large differences within countries in the tax treatment of a range of assets, such as bank accounts, bonds, shares, private pensions and housing, and points out that tax rules–rather than pre-tax rates of return–are likely driving some savings decisions.

Analysis of asset-holding patterns across income and wealth levels shows that differences in tax treatment of certain types of savings often favour wealthier taxpayers over poorer taxpayers. For example, poorer taxpayers tend to hold a larger share of their wealth in relatively high-taxed bank accounts than wealthier taxpayers, who tend to hold a greater share of their wealth in investment funds, pension funds and shares, which are often taxed at lower rates.

Faced with these outcomes, the report outlines a range of opportunities for greater tax neutrality across different types of savings to foster more inclusive growth. At the same time, it recognises the case for preferential tax treatment to encourage retirement savings, in light of population ageing and increasing pressure on social security systems.

The report also finds that opportunities may exist for some countries to increase progressivity in their taxation of savings as a result of the recent move towards the automatic exchange of financial account information between tax administrations. This ground-breaking change in the international tax environment is likely to make it harder in years to come for taxpayers to evade tax by hiding income and wealth offshore – presenting a particular opportunity for countries that previously moved away from progressive taxation of capital income to reintroduce a degree of tax progressivity.

The Role and Design of Net Wealth Taxes

The second report, The Role and Design of Net Wealth Taxes, examines the use of net wealth taxes–both currently and historically–across the OECD. It assesses the case for and against the use of net wealth taxes to raise revenue and reduce inequality, but does not call for their introduction. The report suggests that there is little need for net wealth taxes in countries with broad-based personal capital income taxes, including capital gains taxes, and well-designed inheritance and gift taxes. It finds there may be scope for such taxes in countries where the taxation of capital income is low or where inheritance taxes are not levied.

On Thursday 12 April, OECD’s Head of Tax Policy and Statistics David Bradbury, senior tax economist Alastair Thomas and tax economist Sarah Perret presented the findings and answered journalist questions during a one-hour webinar.

(Source: Press release)


TTPI Event – Save the Date

On Tuesday 22 May 2018, join TTPI and the Crawford School at the lecture ‘The tax challenges arising from digitalisation: an international perspective’, by David Bradbury, Head of Tax Policy & Statistics Division, OECD Centre for Tax Policy & Administration. For more information and free registrations, please visit the event webpage.

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