Tax Expenditure Country Reports. Unveiling Tax Expenditures at the Country Level

The Council on Economic Policies (CEP) and the German Institute of Development and Sustainability (IDOS) are launching a new series of reports on national tax expenditure regimes, covering topics such as transparency, the fiscal cost of tax expenditures, benchmarking, evaluations and the political economy of tax expenditure reforms. All reports are authored by renowned tax expenditure experts in their country. Here is the introduction to the series by the two editors, CEP’s Senior Fellow Agustin Redonda and IDOS’ Senior Researcher Christian von Haldenwang.


The Global Tax Expenditures Database (GTED) is the first global database on tax expenditures (TEs), covering all 218 jurisdictions and more than 27,500 individual TE provisions worldwide. It provides unlimited access to all TE data that is official and publicly available, opening the door to different types of analyses and debates that would have been impossible without this source of information. Yet, for several reasons the comparison of individual TEs or TE regimes across countries continues to be challenging.

First, TEs are defined as departures from a country-specific standard tax structure or benchmark. Very often different countries apply different criteria when it comes to the definition of their benchmark tax systems (and, hence, of their TE regimes). For example, unlike most other countries, France and Germany consider lower VAT rates for foodstuff to be part of their benchmark tax system because those provisions are considered fundamental features of the tax system based on a general redistributive logic. Yet, other VAT-related measures, such as lower VAT rates for cultural activities, are classified and reported as TEs. These national specificities can make cross-country comparisons in the TE field a challenging task.

Second, as shown by the Global Tax Expenditures Transparency Index (GTETI) the quality and scope of TE reporting is highly heterogeneous across countries. Widespread non- and under-reporting significantly contribute to the lack of transparency in the TE field. The latest version of the GTED reveals that 109 countries have never published a TE report. In addition, among the 109 reporting countries, the information provided is often incomplete, inconsistent or outdated. Some countries only report on a subset of TEs. For instance, the US Treasury’s official TE report includes only income-related TEs. Similarly, the Philippines report only on tax incentives for investment, not on the entire TE regime. Furthermore, many countries list numerous TE provisions but provide revenue forgone estimates for only a portion of them. For example, France’s 2024 budget proposal lists 467 TEs but provides revenue forgone estimates for just 403 of them, with 129 of those estimates reported merely as a rough order of magnitude.

Third, large differences exist with regard to the governance and institutional set-up of TE policymaking. For instance, in some countries TEs are granted by a number of ministries and the parliament, while in other countries the introduction and implementation of TEs is coordinated and supervised by one public entity – usually the Ministry of Finance. As a result, TE reforms are a highly context-specific topic that needs to be discussed at the national level.

Against this backdrop, the Council on Economic Policies (CEP) and the German Institute of Development and Sustainability (IDOS) are launching the series Tax Expenditures Country Reports (TECRs). With a consistent, standardized structure, the TECRs provide a deep dive into national TE systems. Each TECR covers topics such as TE transparency, the fiscal cost of TEs, TE benchmarking, TE evaluations and the political economy of TEs. The TECRs are always authored by a local expert (or a team of experts) working in close collaboration with the Tax Expenditures Lab team. The reports are written in a non-technical way, including relevant information supported and complemented by tables, graphs and charts based on data from the GTED and the GTETI, among other sources. Whenever possible, TECRs will be launched at an event organized in the respective country, where relevant stakeholders from the government and the parliament as well as academics, think tanks and other civil society organizations will have a chance to familiarise themselves with the key findings and discuss about TE policy in their country.

Since the GTED was launched in July 2021, CEP and IDOS have implemented a number of related projects. Many of them focus on the global or regional dimensions of TE policy making. Whereas both the GTED and the GTETI are global by nature, the series of regional workshops and technical meetings on TEs, co-organized with the Addis Tax Initiative (ATI), prove that peer learning and exchange can be successfully organised at a regional level. While this approach has allowed to discuss minimum standards and best practices across countries, the TECR series will provide more comprehensive and detailed insights on national TE regimes, contributing to meaningful and well-informed TE debates around the globe.