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Peer Pressure: Tax competition and developing economies

Michael Keen's picture
A race to the bottom. Graphic by Nicholas Nam/World Bank

Economists tend to agree on the importance of competition for a sound market economy. So what’s the problem when it comes to governments competing to attract investors through the tax treatment they provide? The trouble is that by competing with one another and eroding each other’s revenues, countries end up having to rely on other—typically more distortive—sources of financing or reduce much-needed public spending, or both.

All this has serious implications for developing countries because they are especially reliant on the corporate income tax for revenues. The risk that tax competition will pressure them into tax policies that endanger this key revenue source is therefore particularly worrisome.

Boosting revenues, driving development: Join us to discuss!

Julia Oliver's picture


In a live-streamed event from 1 pm to 2 pm EST on Friday, April 21, the World Bank will host a discussion of a critical development issue: Taxes. The event, Boosting Revenues, Driving Development: Why Taxes are Critical for Growth, will include an illustrious list of panelists, representing many different perspectives:

A little handbook that could help bring big results – in revenues and investor certainty

Jan Loeprick's picture
Graphic: Boris Balabanov

In today’s globalized world, a corporation might have a retail store in one country, a factory in another, and financial services provider in yet a third.

Corporate interconnectedness has brought investment and growth, to be sure, but it has also added complexity to the work of tax authorities. Increasingly, developing-economy governments come face-to-face with corporations that employ sophisticated strategies with the aim of paying fewer taxes. With our recently published handbook, "Transfer Pricing and Developing Economies: A Handbook for Policy Makers and Practitioners,” we hope to support efforts to protect countries’ corporate tax bases.

Higher revenue, easier filing for taxpayers in Armenia

Julia Oliver's picture


Photo credit: Dmitry Karyshev

Armenia was faced with a slowing economy, sinking remittances, and inefficient tax administration. At the same time, ordinary taxpayers had to navigate arduous processes when paying taxes. The Armenian government was eager to reform its tax administration. Below is a transcript of what we learned when we spoke to World Bank experts working with Armenian tax officials to make things better.
 
Julia: I’m Julia Oliver.
 
Maximilian: I’m Maximilian Mareis.
 
Julia: And we have been talking with tax experts around the World Bank to find out about what they do.
 
Maximilian: So, let’s start with this project in Armenia. Why did we get involved?

Julia: Well, the global financial crisis hit Armenia and its three million people pretty hard. In 2012, when the World Bank began working with policymakers to improve the country’s tax administration, the country faced a pretty bleak picture. Foreign remittances were low, and the domestic economy was slowing. In addition the country had high levels of informal employment.