Two sides of the coin: Tax incentives and revenue forgone -Suraj Jaiswal and Neeti Biyani

-Down to Earth

The use of tax incentives to attract investments is prevalent around the world. However, there is no definitive data on the global magnitude of incentives granted because not all countries collect and publicly report such data and there is no common methodology for reporting across all countries. Rough estimate by Action Aid (2013) pegs the incentives granted by developing countries from corporate income tax (CIT) at $138 billion. For selected Asian countries, UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (2014) estimates that tax breaks granted ranges from 0 per cent to 0.6 per cent and 0.1 per cent to 8.1 per cent of GDP from CIT breaks and customs duty.

The immediate and direct effect of tax incentives is loss of potential revenues for governments, and a significant burden to developing countries. Tax incentives undermine government’s efforts to raise adequate domestic resources to finance the delivery of essential services and social protection at the scale and quality necessary to ensure that their citizens are able to fulfil unrealized rights, address inequality and meet sustainable development goals for all. Widespread use of tax incentives is also linked to problems of corruption and poor governance.

Tax incentives essentially constitute a set of fiscal policy tools that governments use to achieve desired economic and social policy outcomes. It is an exercise of the state’s taxing power but with negative effect on public revenues. While imposing taxes increases public revenues, granting tax incentives involves calibrating the design and scope of the tax system to favour certain groups by partially waiving the collection of taxes otherwise due to encourage undertaking of certain behaviours, decisions or activities.

The most common use of tax incentives is to promote investments. They serve to attract flow of capital in preferred locations and sectors of the economy or to undertake specific investment activities (e.g. financing infrastructure projects, research and development).

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Down to Earth, 1 February, 2019,

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