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Value-Added Taxes: Potential Lessons for the United States from Other Countries' Experiences

GAO-11-867T Published: Jul 26, 2011. Publicly Released: Jul 26, 2011.
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Dissatisfaction with the federal tax system has led to a debate about U.S. tax reform, including proposals for a national consumption tax. One type of proposed consumption tax is a value-added tax (VAT), widely used around the world. A VAT is levied on the difference between a business's sales and its purchases of goods and services. Typically, a business calculates the tax due on its sales, subtracts a credit for taxes paid on its purchases, and remits the difference to the government. While the economic and distributional effects of a U.S. VAT type tax have been studied, GAO issued a report in 2008 that looked at lessons learned from VAT administration in Australia, Canada, France, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. These countries provided a range of VAT designs from relatively simple to more complex. This statement, which is based on the 2008 report, focuses on (1) the effect VAT design choices, such as exemptions and enforcement mechanisms, have on compliance, administrative costs, and compliance burden; (2) Canada's experience with administering a VAT in conjunction with several different subnational consumption tax arrangements; and (3) the experience that some countries had transitioning to a VAT.

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Consumption taxesPolicy evaluationProgram evaluationProgram managementRecords managementReporting requirementsRisk assessmentSales taxesStandardsStrategic planningTax administrationTax administration systemsTax lawTax refundsTax violationsTaxpayersValue-added taxesVoluntary compliance