Taxation, either as a cost or an incentive, can have a strong impact on growth and employment.
For many years member states have agreed on the importance of reducing taxation on labour as a way to increase competitiveness and employment. But different realities exist in the EU, and the “Nordic model” has shown that high rates of taxation can coexist with high employment rates.
But taxation on labour, among other factors, can impact the functioning of the labour market, so differentials in labour taxation could be introduced. For economic and social justice reasons, they could increase progressively with wages as a way to avoid loss in public revenue.
So far the structural reforms agenda has mainly involved shifting taxes from labour to consumption - notably VAT. This however tends to reinforce inequalities, which in turn tends to dampen growth. Moreover, the European Commission has concluded that the member states with the highest labour taxation have not significantly decreased it at all in recent years.
In general, margins of manoeuver for the implementation of growth and employment-friendly taxation should be sought in more effective taxation of capital gains and wealth, as well as in more effective corporate taxation. This requires limiting tax competition between member states, which leads to social dumping and a race to the bottom for public revenues.
Gradual fiscal convergence will help to install more social justice in the European Union and strengthen governments’ ability to support sustainable growth. Such convergence should go hand in hand with a significantly reinforced fight against tax avoidance and aggressive tax planning.