Starting in the early 1990s, the Baltics, Russia, and other (BRO) countries of the former Soviet Union initiated tax reforms that varied widely at the later stages. Recently, some of the BRO countries, basing decisions on the proposition that lowering of the top marginal income tax rate would significantly benefit economic development and increase tax compliance, have initiated a new stage of tax reforms. This paper reviews country experiences and suggests that (i) overall, there seems to be little evidence of a substantial improvement in income tax revenues resulting simply from a reduction in the top marginal tax rates, and (ii) in the BRO countries, the elasticity of the behavior of economic agents, in terms of labor supply, saving, and investment, with respect to income tax rates is not large, and a reduction of the existing income tax rates is unlikely to lead to a notable expansion of economic activity.
Two possible tax policy strategies for the NIS are: (1) an optimal nondistortionary tax structure as a one-shot action; and (2) a structure with identifiable and clearly understood distortionary elements as a temporary phenomenon to close the fiscal gap. An assessment of NIS tax structures reveals that they conform to neither. They are rapidly acquiring complex features comprising multiple rates, exemptions, and other difficult-to administer properties, with uncertain ramifications for efficiency, equity, and the fiscal deficit. Steady--and perhaps prolonged--effort needs to be made if simple, broad-based, and revenue-productive tax structures are to be achieved. This is a Paper on Policy Analysis and Assessment and the author(s) would welcome any comments on the present text. Citations should refer to a Paper on Policy Analysis and Assessment of the International Monetary Fund, mentioning the author(s) and the date of issuance. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent those of the Fund.