Numbers & Statistics
Restoring Trust Through Fiscal Policy
Restoring Trust Through Fiscal Policy
April 25, 2019
Good morning everyone!
It is my great pleasure to welcome you to the IMF-Japan High-Level Tax
Conference for Asian Countries.
Today we mark the tenth anniversary of this conference.
Since 2009, the conference has provided an important platform for tax
officials in Japan and the Asian region to share experiences and deepen
collaboration on common challenges in tax policy.
I am grateful to our co-host, the Ministry of Finance, for its generous
support of the conference and for the country’s unwavering commitment
to our technical assistance activities.
I would also like to thank my colleagues in the IMF Fiscal Affairs
Department and in the Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific for
their organizational leadership of this event.
This year, the conference takes place against a delicate and unsettled
backdrop for the world economy.
The broad-based economic expansion witnessed around this time last year
has hit a temporary soft patch – and policy uncertainty and financial
vulnerabilities further threaten ongoing momentum.
This is all at a time when rising inequality is eroding trust in
institutions and support for a system of international cooperation that
has delivered enormous benefits.
So today I would like to share a few thoughts on two areas where
effective tax policy and administration can help restore trust in
public institutions: corruption and international taxation.
Curbing corruption to restore trust in fiscal institutions
Let me start with corruption.
Corruption helps some people evade taxes, whereas others may end up
paying more than they should.
It distorts taxpayers’ money away from schools, roads, and hospitals,
and undercuts the government’s ability to achieve sustainable and
Ultimately, corruption erodes peoples’ trust in government and
And we know well that effective fiscal institutions – including
effective revenue systems – cannot function without trust.
Why? Because corruption weakens the culture of compliance.
In our latest Fiscal Monitor, we analyzed more than
180 countries and found that less corrupt governments collect more
revenues, up to 4 percent of GDP.
Countries that managed to reduce corruption significantly were rewarded
with even higher revenue.
For example, in Georgia, tax revenues more than doubled, rising by 13
percentage points of GDP following aggressive reforms to fight
Corruption also distorts how governments use public money and
impacts the effectiveness of social spending.
More corrupt countries overpay for building roads and hospitals, and
their school-age students have lower test scores.
So, what is the IMF doing to help our members in their fight against
We have been deeply engaged with our members in building effective
institutions and improving public sector governance – through policy
advice and diagnostic tools.
We have built up comprehensive diagnostics on weaknesses and
inefficiencies in fiscal institutions.
These tools assist our members to track down shortcomings in their
systems and help them design necessary reforms to improve oversight and
control of public revenues and expenditures.
For example, in tax area, we have tools that can help countries assess
the health of key components of their tax administration systems, and
to estimate the size of non-compliance gaps for major taxes.
In sum, our assistance to member countries is guided by a simple
principle: strong fiscal institutions are important to promote
integrity and accountability.
They are key to restoring trust in government.
Towards a fairer international taxation system
This brings me to my second topic: international taxation.
The effective taxation of multinationals is one of the most prominent
issues not just for practitioners but for society at large.
This is especially relevant for low-income countries. Why?
Many low-income countries rely on corporate income taxes as a source of
Yet, they are often under pressure to sacrifice potential corporate
revenues in order to attract foreign direct investment.
So not only do these countries become exposed to profit shifting and
tax competition, they also have limited alternatives for raising
And this limited capacity becomes further stretched by increased tax
The good news is that there has been progress on coordinated measures
to deal with this issue, most notably the G20-OECD Base Erosion and
Profit Shifting (BEPS) Project.
Under this initiative, a multinational agreement was achieved on new
and improved standards, such as transfer pricing and treaty abuse.
These standards address some of the most egregious types of
international corporate tax avoidance, and many countries are now
amending their tax laws in line with the recommendations of the BEPS
Despite these important initiatives, the international tax system
remains uneven. For two reasons.
First, profit shifting is still a problem.
Limitations of the arm’s-length principle – and reliance on notions of
physical presence of the taxpayer to establish a legal basis to impose
income tax – have allowed apparently profitable firms to pay little
Second, and equally important, tax competition remains largely
Views differ as to whether tax competition may be appropriate in
But for low-income and developing countries, we see all too clearly the
damage that tax competition can do to much-needed revenues.
To further the debate on the issue of international corporate taxation,
we recently published a paper that focuses on the perspective of
emerging and low-income countries.
We examined several alternative international architectures, such as
minimum taxation and the destination-based cash-flow tax.
And of course, we engage closely with our members on all tax issues
within the context of our wider surveillance and capacity development
This conference provides an excellent opportunity to further explore
the economic impact of current international tax arrangements, and the
merits and drawbacks of alternatives now under discussion.
Let me conclude.
The global economic backdrop is shining a light on the importance of
strong fiscal institutions and policies in navigating current
The topics of this conference strike a very timely chord.
So, I would like to welcome all participants, and wish you productive
and engaging discussions.
I hope you will also have the time to enjoy Tokyo even if the beautiful
Sakura season is over!
IMF Communications Department
Phone: +1 202 623-7100Email: MEDIA@IMF.org