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Improving Tax Expenditure: From the Perspective of an Integrated Fiscal System

Youngwook Lee

No 81, KDI Focus from Korea Development Institute (KDI)

Abstract: Designed to support specific groups and fields, tax expenditures are rapidly expanding, independently from direct expenditures with identical policy goals. However, without an integrated monitoring process, the interconnection between the two can sometimes weaken the goals they both seek. As such, a database that covers all tax and direct expenditures should be built and used to comprehensively review the effectiveness of the programs. - Policies supporting diverse groups and fields are expanding in the form of tax expenditures at a considerable scale, particularly in social welfare, industry, SME, and the agriculture and fisheries sectors. - The EITC was expanded without being reviewed for its effectiveness, and the CTC was adopted in 2015. - The EITC, a tax expenditure and the NBLS, a direct expenditure, are both designed to support the income and self-reliance of low-income households, but the interconnection between the two creates an income reversal wherein more work leads to less total income. - A 100 won increase in earned income reduces benefits by 125 won in benefits, leading to a 25 won decrease in the total post-tax income. - Accordingly, these expenditures may be ineffective in inducing work and self-reliance of low-income households, contrary to the intended policy goals. - Respective tax programs that are fragmentarily evaluated and revised in line with their respective goals could distort the whole tax structure. - The tax reform in 2013 was intended to improve tax equity, but failed to reflect a comprehensive perspective within the overall tax system. As a result, the proportion of exempt individuals soared to 48% and went against the basic direction of governmental efforts to counter the low birth rate. - To properly evaluate tax expenditure programs, relevant information needs to be provided in a timely manner. - A database on tax and direct expenditures that seek identical policy goals should be built and the information must be interconnected. - A structure that comprehensively examines both tax and direct expenditures should be strengthened along with an effectiveness check on respective tax expenditures.

Date: 2017
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