Measuring Tax Complexity Across Countries: A Survey Study on MNCs
90 Pages Posted: 16 Sep 2020 Last revised: 30 Apr 2021
Date Written: March 1, 2021
This paper introduces an index that comprehensively measures the complexity of countries’ corporate income tax systems faced by multinational corporations. It builds on surveys of highly experienced tax consultants of the largest international tax services networks. The index, called the Tax Complexity Index (TCI), is composed of a tax code subindex covering tax regulations and a tax framework subindex covering tax processes and features. For a sample of 100 countries, we find that tax complexity varies considerably across countries, and tax code and framework complexity also vary within countries. Among others, tax complexity is strongly driven by the complexity of transfer pricing regulations in the tax code and tax audits in the tax framework. When analyzing the associations with other country characteristics, we identify different patterns. For example, with regard to GDP, we find a positive association with tax code complexity and a negative association with tax framework complexity, suggesting that highly economically developed countries tend to have more complex tax codes and less complex frameworks. Overall, our tax complexity measures can serve as valuable proxies in future research and supportive tools for a variety of firm decisions and national and international tax policy discussions.
Keywords: business taxation, cross-country survey, multinational corporations, tax complexity, tax consultants, tax index
JEL Classification: H20, H25, C83, O57
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