Study and Reports on the VAT Gap in the EU-28 Member States: 2018 Final Report
In this Report, the Authors present the new Value Added Tax (VAT) Gap estimates for 2016, as well as updated estimates for 2012-2016. In addition to the analysis of the Compliance Gap, this Report examines the Policy Gap in 2016 as well as the contribution that reduced rates and exemptions made to the theoretical VAT revenue losses. Moreover, the Report contains an econometric analysis of VAT Gap determinants, which is a novelty introduced from this year’s Study.
In 2016, most European Union (EU) Member States (MS) saw positive tailwinds with a combined real GDP growth of 2.0 percent. As a result of a growing base and increasing VAT compliance, VAT revenue increased in all MS with three exceptions. Most pronounced is the case of Romania, where VAT revenue decreased in response to reduction of the standard rate by four percentage points. In nominal terms, in 2016, the VAT Gap in EU-28 MS fell below EUR 150 billion and amounted to EUR 147.1 billion. In relative terms, the VAT Gap share of the VAT total tax liability (VTTL) dropped to 12.3 percent from 13.2 percent in 2015, and is the lowest value in the analysed period of 2012-2016. Denoted at the share of GDP, the VAT Gap in 2016 amounted to 0.99% compared to 1.05% in 2015.
Of the EU-28, the VAT Gap share decreased in 22 countries and increased in six—namely, Romania, Finland, the UK, Ireland, Estonia, and France. The biggest declines in the VAT Gap—of over five percentage points—occurred in Bulgaria, Latvia, Cyprus, and the Netherlands. The smallest Gaps were observed in Luxembourg (0.85 percent), Sweden (1.08 percent), and Croatia (1.15 percent). The largest Gaps were registered in Romania (35.88 percent), Greece (29.22 percent), and Italy (25.90 percent). Overall, half of EU-28 MS recorded a Gap below 9.9 percent.
The Policy Gaps and its components remained stable. The average Policy Gap level was 44.8 percent, out of which 9.95 percentage points are due to the application of various reduced and super-reduced rates (the Rate Gap). Countries with the most flat levels of rates in the EU, according to the Rate Gap, are Denmark (0.93 percent) and Estonia (2.97 percent). The Exemption Gap, or the average share of Ideal Revenue lost due to various exemptions, is, on average, 35 percent in the EU, whereas the Actionable Policy Gap—a combination of the Rate Gap and the Actionable Exemption Gap—is, on average, 16.5 percent of the Notional Ideal Revenue.
The econometric analysis can be considered a successful first attempt at inferring the impact of various determinants. Firstly, it can be observed that the productive structure of the economy exerts an impact on the VAT Gap. The share of retailers has the strongest impact on the VAT Gap; however, telecommunications, industry, and art also have a positive impact. Secondly, liquidity constraints and the productive structure of the economy also play a role in determining VAT compliance. The most interesting results have to do with the impact of the variables under the direct control of the tax administration. We show that the impact of the size of the tax administration and the VAT Gap is concave. On the contrary, in the case of IT expenditure, the impact is convex, albeit small, until productivity vanishes when IT expenditure is about 9.8 percent of the total expenditure of the tax administration.