Explaining European Patterns of Taxation: From the Introduction of the Euro to the Euro-Crisis

May 2012
This paper reviews developments in Europe from the eve of the introduction of the euro through the euro crisis. The paper begins with a discussion of the tax reform agenda. Although there are differences in the literature on specific taxes, and while European countries vary in their preferred levels of taxation, there is general consensus on the shape reforms should take. The paper then discusses the evolution of tax systems with the overall agenda in mind. It is found that overall revenue levels were broadly stable until just before the crisis, but marginal rates in corporate and top personal income declined almost continuously. During the crisis, however, this trend ended, with countries in the greatest fiscal difficulties raising tax rates and tax burdens. The last section provides a short analysis of why there were reforms in some countries but not others. Key variables include tax competition among member states, partisanship, underlying preferences in the population for redistribution, and the number of partisan veto players.