The evolution of the changes in tax ratios between 1965 and 2010 is as follows:
- The average tax to GDP ratio in the OECD area increased from 25.4 per cent to 33.8 per cent (8.4 percentage points) between 1965 and 2010. This rise was almost continuous up till the year 2000 since when the tax burden has fallen back a little. (Table 2)
- The historical development of tax ratios for individual OECD countries varies greatly, as shown in Charts B, C, D and E. Each chart relates national changes in the tax level to the OECD average, for the periods 1965–1975, 1975–1985, 1985–1995 and 1995–2010, respectively. Despite their overall increase, total tax revenues have fallen in some countries
- Between 1965 and 1975, the tax burden in the OECD area increased by 3.9 percentage points (Chart B). Until the first oil shock (1973 to 1974) strong, almost uninterrupted income growth enabled tax levels to rise in all OECD countries. In part, tax levels rose automatically through the effect of fiscal drag on personal income tax schedules.
- Between 1975 and 1985, the tax burden in the OECD area increased by 3.2 percentage points (Chart C). After the mid-1970s, the combination of slower real income growth and higher levels of unemployment apparently limited the revenue raising capacity of governments. But during and after the deep recession following the second oil shock (1980), countries in Europe saw tax levels rise further, to finance higher spending on social security and rein in budget deficits.
- Between 1985 and 1995, the tax burden in the OECD area increased by a further 2.1 percentage points (Chart D). After the mid-1980s, most OECD countries substantially reduced the statutory rates of their personal and corporate income tax, but the negative revenue impact of widespread tax reforms was often offset by reducing or abolishing tax reliefs.
- Between 1995 and 2000 the average OECD tax-to-GDP ratio rose to its highest recorded level of 35.2 per cent. It fell back slightly between 2001 and 2004, but then rose again between 2005 and 2007 before falling back following the crisis. The average tax level in the OECD area decreased by 0.7 percentage points between 1995 and 2010. (Chart E)
- Such averages for the OECD area as a whole conceal the great variety in national tax burdens. In 1965, measures of tax to GDP ratios in OECD countries ranged from 10.6 per cent in Turkey to 34.2 per cent in France. By 2010 the corresponding range was from 18.8 per cent in Mexico to 47.6 per cent in Denmark. The trend towards higher tax levels over this period reflects the need to finance sizeable increase of public sector outlays in almost all industrialised countries.
Table 2. Total tax revenue as percentage of GDP, 1965-2010
Chart A. Total tax revenue as percentage of GDP
Chart B. Changes in tax to GDP ratio (in percentage points) 1965-1975
Chart C. Changes in tax to GDP ratio (in percentage points) 1975-1985
Chart D. Changes in tax to GDP ratio (in percentage points) 1985-1995
Chart E. Changes in tax to GDP ratio (in percentage points) 1995-2010
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