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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.
Ruud A. de Mooij and Mr. Shafik Hebous
Tax provisions favoring corporate debt over equity finance (“debt bias”) are widely recognized as a risk to financial stability. This paper explores whether and how thin-capitalization rules, which restrict interest deductibility beyond a certain amount, affect corporate debt ratios and mitigate financial stability risk. We find that rules targeted at related party borrowing (the majority of today’s rules) have no significant impact on debt bias—which relates to third-party borrowing. Also, these rules have no effect on broader indicators of firm financial distress. Rules applying to all debt, in contrast, turn out to be effective: the presence of such a rule reduces the debt-asset ratio in an average company by 5 percentage points; and they reduce the probability for a firm to be in financial distress by 5 percent. Debt ratios are found to be more responsive to thin capitalization rules in industries characterized by a high share of tangible assets.
Vitor Gaspar, Laura Jaramillo, and Mr. Philippe Wingender
Is there a minimum tax to GDP ratio associated with a significant acceleration in the process of growth and development? We give an empirical answer to this question by investigating the existence of a tipping point in tax-to-GDP levels. We use two separate databases: a novel contemporary database covering 139 countries from 1965 to 2011 and a historical database for 30 advanced economies from 1800 to 1980. We find that the answer to the question is yes. Estimated tipping points are similar at about 12¾ percent of GDP. For the contemporary dataset we find that a country just above the threshold will have GDP per capita 7.5 percent larger, after 10 years. The effect is tightly estimated and economically large.
International Monetary Fund. European Dept.

Abstract

The key policy challenges facing countries in Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe remain broadly unchanged, among them supporting domestic demand, addressing financial crisis legacies, rebuilding buffers against external shocks, and improving the business environment. Country-specific priorities depend on how far along they are in the postcrisis adjustment and their exposure to external risks.

Mr. Benedict J. Clements, Mr. David Coady, Ms. Stefania Fabrizio, Mr. Sanjeev Gupta, Mr. Trevor Serge Coleridge Alleyne, and Mr. Carlo A Sdralevich

Abstract

Energy subsidies are aimed at protecting consumers, however, subsidies aggravate fiscal imbalances, crowd out priority public spending, and depress private investment, including in the energy sector. This book provides the most comprehensive estimates of energy subsidies currently available for 176 countries and an analysis of “how to do” energy subsidy reform, drawing on insights from 22 country case studies undertaken by the IMF staff and analyses carried out by other institutions.

International Monetary Fund
This supplement presents country case studies reviewing energy subsidy reform experiences, which are the basis for the reform lessons identified in the main paper. The selection of countries for the case studies reflects the availability of data and of previously documented evidence on country-specific reforms. The 22 country case studies were also chosen to provide cases from all regions and a mix of outcomes from reform. The studies cover 19 countries, including seven from sub-Saharan Africa, two in developing Asia, three in the Middle East and North Africa, four in Latin America and the Caribbean, and three in Central and Eastern Europe and the CIS. The case studies are organized by energy product, with 14 studies of the reform of petroleum product subsidies, seven studies of the reform of electricity subsidies, and a case study of subsidy reform for coal. The larger number of studies on fuel subsidies reflects the wider availability of data and past studies for these reforms. The structure of each case study is similar, with each one providing the context of the reform and a description of the reforms; discussion of the impact of the reform on energy prices or subsidies and its success or failure; mitigating measures that were implemented in an attempt to generate public support for the reform and offset adverse effects on the poor; and, finally, identification of lessons for designing reforms.
International Monetary Fund
This Selected Issues paper discusses the policy response by a sample of central banks to the ongoing oil and food price shocks in South Africa, drawing some lessons, which can help put in context developments in the country. The paper discusses first- and second-round effects of “supply shocks,” and attempts to gauge second-round effects in South Africa. The paper also analyzes the factors that have constrained South Africa’s growth since the end of apartheid, by comparing its GDP components and its saving and investment performance with those of a panel of faster-growing countries.