Emmanouil Kitsios, João Tovar Jalles, and Ms. Genevieve Verdier
How can governments reduce the prevalence of cross-border tax fraud? This paper argues that the use of digital technologies offers an opportunity to reduce fraud and increase government revenue. Using data on intra-EU and world trade transactions, we present evidence that (i) cross-border trade tax fraud is non-trivial and prevalent in many countries; (ii) such fraud can be alleviated by the use of digital technologies at the border; and (iii) potential revenue gains of digitalization from reducing trade fraud could be substantial. Halving the distance to the digitalization frontier could raise revenues by over 1.5 percent of GDP in low-income developing countries.
Jannick Damgaard, Thomas Elkjaer, and Niels Johannesen
Macro statistics on foreign direct investment (FDI) are blurred by offshore centers with
enormous inward and outward investment positions. This paper uses several new data
sources, both macro and micro, to estimate the global FDI network while disentangling real
investment and phantom investment and allocating real investment to ultimate investor
economies. We find that phantom investment into corporate shells with no substance and no
real links to the local economy may account for almost 40 percent of global FDI. Ignoring
phantom investment and allocating real investment to ultimate investors increases the
explanatory power of standard gravity variables by around 25 percent.
International Monetary Fund. Communications Department
This issue of Finance & Development focuses on dark web of secret transactions that enable tax evasion and avoidance, money laundering, illicit financial flows, and corruption. Demands on government resources are building—to boost growth in some advanced economies, build infrastructure in emerging markets, and improve health and education in the developing world. IMF research shows that countries with lower levels of perceived corruption have significantly less waste in public projects. Among low-income countries, the share of the budget dedicated to education and health is one-third lower in more corrupt countries. The rise of digital finance, crypto assets, and cybercrime adds to the challenges. Consider the so-called dark web, a hidden marketplace for everything from stolen identities to arms and narcotics. Improving governance is not easy; it requires sustained effort over the long term.
Tax avoidance continues to attract attention globally with strong support for tax law reform at all levels. This Tax Law IMF Technical Note focuses on some of the key design and drafting considerations of one specific legal instrument (being, a statutory general anti-avoidance rule (GAAR)) which is often considered by authorities to combat unacceptable tax avoidance practices. A GAAR is typically designed to strike down those otherwise lawful practices that are found to be carried out in a manner which undermines the intention of the tax law such as where a taxpayer has misused or abused that law. However, the objective of combating unacceptable tax avoidance can itself make the legal design of a GAAR complex. This is simply because the phrase “tax avoidance” means different things to different people. Whatever the form of a GAAR, it should give effect to a policy that seeks to strike down blatant, artificial or contrived arrangements which are tax driven. However, the GAAR should be designed and applied so as not to inhibit or impede ordinary commercial transactions. This Tax Law IMF Technical Note discusses and explores how drawing a line between those arrangements which should be caught by the GAAR is a matter of degree and can be delicate.