Mario Pessoa, Andrew Okello, Artur Swistak, Muyangwa Muyangwa, Virginia Alonso-Albarran, and Vincent de Paul Koukpaizan
The value-added tax (VAT) has the potential to generate significant government revenue. Despite its intrinsic self-enforcement capacity, many tax administrations find it challenging to refund excess input credits, which is critical to a well-functioning VAT system. Improperly functioning VAT refund practices can have profound implications for fiscal policy and management, including inaccurate deficit measurement, spending overruns, poor budget credibility, impaired treasury operations, and arrears accumulation.This note addresses the following issues: (1) What are VAT refunds and why should they be managed properly? (2) What practices should be put in place (in tax policy, tax administration, budget and treasury management, debt, and fiscal statistics) to help manage key aspects of VAT refunds? For a refund mechanism to be credible, the tax administration must ensure that it is equipped with the strategies, processes, and abilities needed to identify VAT refund fraud. It must also be prepared to act quickly to combat such fraud/schemes.
This paper analyses and compares two different groups of tools, the first to encourage the use of invoices (or payment systems) and the second to refund the VAT to low-income individuals. The analysis contributes to the existing literature by providing a clear characterization between these two groups of tools that are too often misunderstood and offers clear guidance to policymakers on the benefits and pitfalls of them based on available empirical studies and novel data analysis. Briefly, the first group includes a set of regressive and distortive tools (such as, allowing deducting the VAT paid on personal consumption from the PIT and reducing the VAT rate for using electronic means of payments or registration), while the second group includes tools that are less distortionary and improve income distribution (tax credits and VAT rate reduction targeted only at low-income individuals). This paper also finds that allowing the deduction of personal consumption against the PIT’s taxable base (i) did not impact positively the VAT revenue in Guatemala and (ii) worsens the income distribution in Ecuador.
International Monetary Fund. Western Hemisphere Dept.
This Selected Issues paper analyzes remittances and households’ behavior in Guatemala. Remittances are a structural feature of the Guatemala economy. In 2017, remittance flows accounted for over 11 percent of GDP and benefitted over 1.5 million of Guatemalan households. The effects of remittances on the labor supply are estimated. There is no evidence of remittance-induced work disincentives. The results suggest that the labor supply for members of remittance-receiving households is relatively more elastic, most markedly so for the 41-65 age group: a one percent increase in weekly wages leads to a 0.5 percent increase in weekly hours worked for members of remittance-receiving households, versus 0.2 percent increase for non-remittance-receiving households.
Ms. Stefania Fabrizio, Davide Furceri, Mr. Rodrigo Garcia-Verdu, Ms. Grace B Li, Mrs. Sandra V Lizarazo Ruiz, Ms. Marina Mendes Tavares, Mr. Futoshi Narita, and Adrian Peralta
Despite sustained economic growth and rapid poverty reductions, income inequality remains stubbornly high in many low-income developing countries. This pattern is a concern as high levels of inequality can impair the sustainability of growth and macroeconomic stability, thereby also limiting countries’ ability to reach the Sustainable Development Goals. This underscores the importance of understanding how policies aimed at boosting economic growth affect income inequality. Using empirical and modeling techniques, the note confirms that macro-structural policies aimed at raising growth payoffs in low-income developing countries can have important distributional consequences, with the impact dependent on both the design of reforms and on country-specific economic characteristics. While there is no one-size-fits-all recipe, the note explores how governments can address adverse distributional consequences of reforms by designing reform packages to make pro-growth policies also more inclusive.
International Monetary Fund. Western Hemisphere Dept.
This Selected Issues paper estimates potential output growth and the output gap for Guatemala. Potential output growth averaged 4.4 percent just before the global financial crisis but has since declined to 3.75 percent owing to lower capital accumulation and total factor productivity (TFP) growth. It is estimated at 3.8 percent in 2016, and the output gap has virtually closed. Potential growth is expected to reach 4 percent in the medium term owing to the expected improvements in TFP growth. Policies should also prioritize mobilizing domestic savings to invest and build a higher capital stock.
Ms. Era Dabla-Norris, Yixi Deng, Anna Ivanova, Ms. Izabela Karpowicz, Ms. Filiz D Unsal, Eva VanLeemput, and Joyce Wong
Countries in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) have made important strides in promoting financial inclusion of firms and households. However, while the region is broadly at par with its peers on financial inclusion of firms, household inclusion lags behind. Nonetheless, there is substantial heterogeneity across LAC countries. Reducing borrowing costs and strengthening further the regulatory environment, while taking steps to protect efficiency and stability of the financial system, could help close financial inclusion gaps. Reducing financial participation and monitoring costs and relaxing collateral constraints will help spur growth and reduce inequality though trade-offs are likely, as illustrated in the case of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Peru.
How does fiscal policy fare in improving the underlying income distribution in Central America? We integrate the data from a number of existing tax and public expenditure studies for the countries in the region and find that the distributional effect of taxation is regressive but small. In contrast, the redistributive impact of social spending is large and progressive, leading to a progressive net redistributive effect in all countries of the region. We also show that raising tax revenues and devoting the proceeds to social spending would unambiguously improve the income of the poorest households.
América Central ha logrado importantes avances en los últimos años al impulsar reformas económicas y profundizar la integración regional y mundial. Como resultado de estos esfuerzos, la región ha logrado aumentar el crecimiento y las entradas de capitales y reducir en alguna medida las tasas de pobreza. No obstante, América Central se mantiene vulnerable a los shocks negativos y continúa atravesando una situación de pobreza generalizada. Si bien hoy en día América Central se encuentra en mejores condiciones para afrontar esos shocks, las turbulencias actuales en los mercados financieros internacionales podrían poner en riesgo los avances logrados con tanto esfuerzo en los últimos años. Frente a estos retos, las autoridades están siguiendo de cerca los acontecimientos y tomando medidas precautorias, pero también deben seguir realizando reformas que promuevan la productividad y aplicando medidas dirigidas a reducir la desigualdad del ingreso y la pobreza.
Central America has made substantial progress in recent years in moving economic reforms forward and deepening regional and global integration. As result of these efforts, the region has experienced higher growth, increased capital inflows, and some reductions in poverty rates. But Central America remains vulnerable to adverse shocks and continues to face widespread poverty. While today Central America is in better condition to face such shocks, the current turmoil in global financial markets and U.S. growth slowdown could put at risk the hard-won gains of recent years. Faced with these challenges, the authorities are monitoring developments closely and are taking precautionary measures, but they also need to continue implementing productivity-enhancing reforms and measures aimed at reducing income inequality and poverty.