Is VAT Also a Corporate Tax? Untangling Tax Burdens and Benefits for Companies
25 Pages Posted: 23 Apr 2020
Date Written: March 16, 2020
The Great Financial Crisis has increased concerns about whether corporations are paying a ‘fair’ amount of tax in different countries. This begs the question of what a ‘fair’ amount of tax is. The question is complicated by the continuing lack of clarity about the economic incidence of corporate income tax. Recently, it has been argued that the location of the sales revenue (turnover) of a corporation is relevant in determining the fair allocation. Of course, in many countries there is already a tax based on sales, value-added tax (VAT), also called goods and services tax (GST). This paper explores an illustration, arising from a series of cases before the European Court of Justice, of how VAT can impose a burden on corporations. The illustration raises issues of principle for VAT, but also offers lessons about how we tax corporations, particularly given proposals such as for digital sales taxes in the EU and the idea of a destination-based cash-flow tax included in legislative proposals in the US in 2016. This article explores the puzzles raised by the illustration and shows how it can throw light not only on the nature of VAT but also on the incidence of corporate income tax.
Keywords: Value added tax, corporate income tax, holding companies, economic incidence of tax, globalisation and tax
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