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Many governments try to reduce poverty and inequality through a mixture of taxes, transfers, and public services. Individual policies, such as taxation or cash transfers, are frequently evaluated on how well they address these goals. CGD nonresident fellow Nora Lustig’s Commitment to Equity project assesses overall impact of a country’s fiscal policy package on poverty and inequality
This paper presents results on the impact of fiscal policy on inequality and poverty around 2010 in sixteen Latin American countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, Dominican Republic, Uruguay, and Venezuela.
Current policy discussion focuses primarily on the power of fiscal policy to reduce inequality. Yet, comparable fiscal incidence analysis for 28 low and middle income countries reveals that, although fiscal systems are always equalizing, that is not always true for poverty. To varying degrees, in all countries a portion of the poor are net payers into the fiscal system and are thus impoverished by the fiscal system. Consumption taxes are the main culprits of fiscally-induced impoverishment.
We conducted a fiscal impact study to estimate the effect of taxes, social spending, and subsidies on inequality and poverty in El Salvador, using the methodology of the Commitment to Equity project. Taxes are progressive, but given their volume, their impact is limited. Direct transfers are concentrated on poor households, but their budget is small so their effect is limited; a significant portion of the subsidies goes to households in the upper income deciles, so although their budget is greater, their impact is low. The component that has the greatest effect on inequality is spending on education and health. Therefore, the impact of fiscal policy is limited and low when compared with other countries with a similar level of per capita income. There is room for improvement using current resources.
This paper provides a theoretical foundation for analyzing the redistributive effect of taxes and transfers for the case in which the ranking of individuals by pre-fiscal income remains unchanged. We show that in a world with more than a single fiscal instrument, the simple rule that progressive taxes or transfers are always equalizing not necessarily holds, and offer alternative rules that survive a theoretical scrutiny. In particular, we show that the sign of the marginal contribution unambiguously predicts whether a tax or a transfer is equalizing or not.
This paper uses the 2012/13 Uganda National Household Survey to analyze the redistributive effectiveness and impact on poverty and inequality of Uganda’s revenue collection instruments and social spending programs. Fiscal policy—including many of its constituent tax and spending elements—is inequality-reducing in Uganda, but the reduction of inequality due to fiscal policy in Uganda is lower than other countries with similar levels of initial inequality, a result tied to low levels of spending in Uganda generally. The impact of fiscal policy on poverty is negligible, while the combination of very sparse coverage of direct transfer programs and nearly complete coverage of indirect tax instruments means that many poor households are net payers into, rather than net recipients from, the fiscal system. As Uganda looks ahead to increased revenues from taxation and concurrent investments in productive infrastructure, it should take care to protect the poorest households from further impoverishment from the fiscal system.
Using the Iranian Household Expenditure and Income Survey (HEIS) for 2011/12, we apply the marginal contribution approach to determine the impact and effectiveness of each fiscal intervention, and the fiscal system as a whole, on inequality and poverty in Iran.
Using comparable fiscal incidence analysis, this paper examines the impact of fiscal policy on inequality and poverty in twenty-five countries for around 2010. Success in fiscal redistribution is driven primarily by redistributive effort (share of social spending to GDP in each country) and the extent to which transfers/subsidies are targeted to the poor and direct taxes targeted to the rich. While fiscal policy always reduces inequality, this is not the case with poverty. While spending on pre-school and primary school is pro-poor (i.e., the per capita transfer declines with income) in almost all countries, pro-poor secondary school spending is less prevalent, and tertiary education spending tends to be progressive only in relative terms (i.e., equalizing but not pro-poor). Health spending is always equalizing except for Jordan.