Taxes Around the World
A Brief History of World Tax Policy, 1981-2007

In this paper, we trace the historical changes in virtually all forms of taxation across countries and over time. For practical as well as expositional reasons, the focus of the paper is mostly on the U.S. and other OECD countries. These countries have relatively better and more consistent data available and are fairly similar in their economic, political and social characteristics. However, wherever sufficient data are available, we also provide trends in other countries around the world.

In the sections that follow, we describe trends in 10 different tax rates between 1981 and 2007 across all the 30 OECD countries. For some tax variables the data are available only until 2004 or 2005, and we will clarify the data availability in the next section. The simple agenda guiding our analysis is to provide a description of how taxes have changed around the world since 1981, with a brief reflection on what these changes might mean for the relative position of U.S. with respect to the rest of the world.

Section II describes the data and the sources of the data. Section III describes trends in tax rates and tax revenues. Section IV offers a brief discussion of the proposed tax hike under the new administration and Section V concludes.

Click here to read the full paper as an Adobe Acrobat PDF.

Kevin A. Hassett is a senior fellow the director of economic policy studies at AEI. Aparna Mathur is a research fellow at AEI.

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