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International Monetary Fund. European Dept.
This Selected Issues paper explores wealth inequality and private savings in Germany. Trends in increasing corporate profits and gross savings have widened top income inequality, as corporations are typically owned by households in the top of the wealth distribution. The impact on income inequality is more pronounced in countries where the rise in profitability was a result of lower wage growth and labor income shares to start with, as was the case in Germany. The evidence strongly suggests this is not the case and underscores the important role of German business wealth concentration in this context. As high corporate savings and underlying profits largely reflect capital income accruing to wealthy households and increasingly retained in closely-held firms, the build-up of external imbalance has been accompanied by widening top income inequality, rising private savings and compressed consumption rates. The concentration of privately held and publicly listed firm ownership in the hands of industrial dynasties and institutional investors is especially prevalent in Germany, possibly reflecting distortions in firm entry, financing conditions and tax incentives.
International Monetary Fund. European Dept.
This Selected Issues paper analyzes the competitiveness and wage bargaining reform in Italy. The growth of Italian exports has lagged that of euro area peers. Wages are set at the sectoral level and extended nationally. However, they do not respond well to firm-specific productivity, regional disparities, or skill mismatches. Nominally rigid wages have also implied adjustment through lower profits and employment. The analysis also suggests substantial gains from moving from sectoral- to firm-level wage setting of at least 3.5 percentage points, lower unemployment (or higher employment) rate and a notable improvement in Italy’s competitiveness over the medium term.
International Monetary Fund. European Dept.
This 2014 Article IV Consultation highlights that economic growth in Spain has resumed, and unemployment is falling. Exporters are gaining market share, and the current account is in surplus for the first time in decades. Financial conditions have improved sharply, with sovereign yields at record lows. Business investment is rebounding strongly and private consumption has also started to recover owing to improved employment prospects and rising confidence. Executive Directors have welcomed the improving Spanish economy. They have stressed that labor market reform should be accompanied by product and service market liberalization to maximize the gains to growth and jobs.
Ms. Grace Weishi Gu, Ruud A. de Mooij, and Mr. Tigran Poghosyan
This paper explores how corporate taxes affect the financial structure of multinational banks. Guided by a simple theory of optimal capital structure it tests (i) whether corporate taxes induce subsidiary banks to raise their debt-asset ratio in light of the traditional debt bias; and (ii) whether international corporate tax differentials vis-a-vis foreign subsidiary banks affect the intra-bank capital structure through international debt shifting. Using a novel subsidiary-level dataset for 558 commercial bank subsidiaries of the 86 largest multinational banks in the world, we find that taxes matter significantly, through both the traditional debt bias channel and the international debt shifting that is due to the international tax differentials. The latter channel is more robust and tends to be quantitatively more important. Our results imply that taxation causes significant international debt spillovers through multinational banks, which has potentially important implications for tax policy.
International Monetary Fund
This Selected Issues Paper on Belgium provides an overview of the extent of trade and financial openness of Belgium and the links to particular countries. With an export-to-GDP ratio of 79 percent, Belgium belongs to the most open economies in Europe and also globally. Its exports are highly concentrated with a share of three-fourths of total merchandise exports accounted for by the European Union, of which close to two-thirds go to Germany, France, and the Netherlands.
Mr. Steven A. Symansky and Mr. Thomas Baunsgaard
This paper discusses how to enhance automatic stabilizers without increasing the size of government. We distinguish between permanent changes in the parameters of the tax and expenditure system (e.g., changes in tax progressivity) that will enhance the traditional automatic stabilizer, and temporary changes triggered by certain economic developments (e.g., tax measures targeted at credit and liquidity constrained households, triggered during a severe downturn). We argue that, with some exceptions, the latter are preferable as they can be implemented with lower disruptions in other fiscal policy goals (e.g., economic efficiency). Moreover, countries should also avoid introducing procyclicality as a result of fiscal rules, as these would offset the effect of existing automatic stabilizers.
International Monetary Fund
Overall competitiveness of the Dutch economy seems adequate, but domestically produced exports have lost market share recently. Over the past three decades, globalization has greatly influenced economies as countries have become more integrated. Empirical studies on business cycles synchronization and transmission of shocks among countries have provided conflicting results. In its descriptive part, this study concludes that Dutch export competitiveness is not a problem so far. This also finds that the Netherlands is relatively more exposed to supply-driven shocks while Germany is more exposed to demand-driven shocks.
International Monetary Fund
The export performance of the French economy relative to its own past and relative to a major trading partner, Germany, has deteriorated. The risk analysis indicates that French firms have seen a significant improvement in the corporate health, and seem resilient to the recent financial shock despite differences across firms. Several issues in the context of common EU tax policy formation, including carbon pricing, control problems associated with the zero-rating of intra-EU supplies, and possible movement toward a common corporate tax base need to be addressed.
International Monetary Fund
This Selected Issues paper analyzes the challenge of population aging for Belgium. It argues that the aging strategy should be broadened to include more explicitly the objective of raising employment rates to foster potential growth. The paper discusses assumptions underlying the official aging projections, and presents an alternative baseline scenario on the basis of unchanged policies. It discusses the feasibility of strategies that rely exclusively on either fiscal or labor market adjustment, and illustrates the benefits of a two-pronged strategy. The paper also examines employment effects of reductions in labor taxes in a wage-bargaining model.