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It would be administratively too costly and economically regressive to attempt to collect substantial income taxes from the poor. But the fact remains that most LDC governments have not been persistent enough in collecting taxes owed by the very wealthy. Moreover, in countries where the ownership of property is heavily concentrated and therefore represents the major determinant of unequal incomes (e.g., most of Asia and Latin America), property taxes can be an efficient and file taxes online administratively simple mechanism both for generating public revenues and for correcting gross inequalities in income distribution. But in a World Bank survey, in only one of the 22 countries surveyed did the property tax constitute more than 4.2% of total public revenues. Moreover, in spite of much public rhetoric about reducing income inequalities, the share of property taxes as well as overall direct taxation has remained roughly the same for the majority of developing countries over the past two decades. Clearly, this phenomenon cannot be attributed to government tax-collecting inefficiencies as much as to the political and economic power and influence of the large landowning and other dominant classes in many Asian and Latin American countries. The political will to carry out development plans must therefore include the will to extract public revenue from the most accessible sources to finance development projects. If the former is absent, the latter will be too.

Corporate Income Taxes:

Taxes on corporate profits, of both domestically and foreign-owned companies, amount to less than 3% of GDP in most developing countries, compared with more than 6% in developed nations. LDC governments tend to offer all sorts of tax incentives and concessions to manufacturing and commercial enterprises. Typically, new and foreign enterprises are offered long periods (sometimes up to 15 years) of tax exemption and thereafter take advantage of generous investment depreciation allowances, special tax write-offs, and other measures to lessen their tax burden. In the case of multinational foreign enterprises, the ability of LDC governments to collect substantial taxes is often frustrated. These locally run enterprises are frequently able to shift profits to partner companies in countries offering the lowest levels of taxation through transfer pricing.

Indirect Taxes on Commodities:

The largest single source of public revenue in developing countries is the taxation of commodities in the form of import, export, and excise duties. These taxes, which individuals and corporations pay indirectly through their purchase of commodities, are relatively easy to assess and collect. This is especially true in the case of foreign-traded commodities, which must pass through a limited number of frontier ports and are usually handled by a few wholesalers. The ease of collecting such taxes is one reason why countries with extensive foreign trade typically collect a greater proportion of public revenues in the form of import and export duties than countries with limited external trade. For example, in open economies with up to 40% of gross national income (GNI) derived from foreign trade, an average import duty of 25% will yield a tax revenue equivalent of 10% of GNI. By contrast, in countries like India and Brazil with only about 7% of GNI derived from exports, the same tariff rate would yield only 2% of GNI in equivalent tax revenues. One further point about these taxes, often overlooked, must be mentioned. Import and export duties, in addition to representing a major source of public revenue in many LDCs can also be a substitute for the corporate income tax.

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