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Mario Pessoa, Andrew Okello, Artur Swistak, Muyangwa Muyangwa, Virginia Alonso-Albarran, and Vincent de Paul Koukpaizan
The value-added tax (VAT) has the potential to generate significant government revenue. Despite its intrinsic self-enforcement capacity, many tax administrations find it challenging to refund excess input credits, which is critical to a well-functioning VAT system. Improperly functioning VAT refund practices can have profound implications for fiscal policy and management, including inaccurate deficit measurement, spending overruns, poor budget credibility, impaired treasury operations, and arrears accumulation.This note addresses the following issues: (1) What are VAT refunds and why should they be managed properly? (2) What practices should be put in place (in tax policy, tax administration, budget and treasury management, debt, and fiscal statistics) to help manage key aspects of VAT refunds? For a refund mechanism to be credible, the tax administration must ensure that it is equipped with the strategies, processes, and abilities needed to identify VAT refund fraud. It must also be prepared to act quickly to combat such fraud/schemes.
Mr. Ricardo Fenochietto and Juan Carlos Benitez
This paper analyses and compares two different groups of tools, the first to encourage the use of invoices (or payment systems) and the second to refund the VAT to low-income individuals. The analysis contributes to the existing literature by providing a clear characterization between these two groups of tools that are too often misunderstood and offers clear guidance to policymakers on the benefits and pitfalls of them based on available empirical studies and novel data analysis. Briefly, the first group includes a set of regressive and distortive tools (such as, allowing deducting the VAT paid on personal consumption from the PIT and reducing the VAT rate for using electronic means of payments or registration), while the second group includes tools that are less distortionary and improve income distribution (tax credits and VAT rate reduction targeted only at low-income individuals). This paper also finds that allowing the deduction of personal consumption against the PIT’s taxable base (i) did not impact positively the VAT revenue in Guatemala and (ii) worsens the income distribution in Ecuador.
International Monetary Fund. Western Hemisphere Dept.
This Selected Issues paper analyzes remittances and households’ behavior in Guatemala. Remittances are a structural feature of the Guatemala economy. In 2017, remittance flows accounted for over 11 percent of GDP and benefitted over 1.5 million of Guatemalan households. The effects of remittances on the labor supply are estimated. There is no evidence of remittance-induced work disincentives. The results suggest that the labor supply for members of remittance-receiving households is relatively more elastic, most markedly so for the 41-65 age group: a one percent increase in weekly wages leads to a 0.5 percent increase in weekly hours worked for members of remittance-receiving households, versus 0.2 percent increase for non-remittance-receiving households.
Ms. Stefania Fabrizio, Davide Furceri, Mr. Rodrigo Garcia-Verdu, Bin Grace Li, Mrs. Sandra V Lizarazo Ruiz, Ms. Marina Mendes Tavares, Mr. Futoshi Narita, and Adrian Peralta-Alva
Despite sustained economic growth and rapid poverty reductions, income inequality remains stubbornly high in many low-income developing countries. This pattern is a concern as high levels of inequality can impair the sustainability of growth and macroeconomic stability, thereby also limiting countries’ ability to reach the Sustainable Development Goals. This underscores the importance of understanding how policies aimed at boosting economic growth affect income inequality. Using empirical and modeling techniques, the note confirms that macro-structural policies aimed at raising growth payoffs in low-income developing countries can have important distributional consequences, with the impact dependent on both the design of reforms and on country-specific economic characteristics. While there is no one-size-fits-all recipe, the note explores how governments can address adverse distributional consequences of reforms by designing reform packages to make pro-growth policies also more inclusive.
International Monetary Fund. Western Hemisphere Dept.

Guatemala: Selected Issues and Analytical Notes

Mr. Andrew J Swiston and Mr. Luis D Barrot
Central America experienced moderate growth during the last decade, including in the years leading up to the global financial crisis, but the rate of convergence toward advanced country income levels has still been slow. Moreover, forecasts imply that these trends will continue. What can be done to spur higher growth in Central America? We bring new data to bear on this question-version 7.0 of the Penn World Table and a new IMF database on structural reforms. Our cross-country panel regression of economic growth using System GMM captures the importance to growth of conditional convergence, factor accumulation, and macro policies. In addition, structural efficiency is a significant factor in explaining growth performance. We construct a broad index of efficiency and find that increasing the degree of structural efficiency by one standard deviation raises growth by ½ percent. This implies that Central American countries could significantly increase their long-run growth rates by increasing the flexibility of markets and improving the quality of regulation.