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    art_10.1023_A_1008785511498.docx

    International Tax and Public Finance, 7, 723–740, 2000. c 2000 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in The Netherlands. Implementing Subnational Value Added Taxes on Internal Trade The Compensating VAT CVAT CHARLES E. MCLURE, JR.* mclurehoover.stanford.edu Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305-6010 Abstract This paper describes an ingenious and elegant scheme for implementing a destination-based value added tax VAT on cross-border trade within a nation or group of nations. Sales to local purchasers registered traders, households, and unregistered traders would be subject to the local VAT, but sales to purchasers in other states would be zero-rated for state VAT and subject instead to a compensating value added tax‖ CVAT. Credit would be allowed for tax on purchases by registered traders for the local VAT on intrastate purchases and for the CVAT on interstate purchases. Keywords value-added tax, state sales tax JEL Code H71 1. Introduction Bird and Gendron 1998 offer a useful overview and analysis of two similar problems, to which they assert there is a common solution a the imposition of value added taxes VATs by both national and subnational governments in a single country and b imple- mentation of a VAT on cross-border trade e.g., between nations where only one level of government imposes the tax. The solution, they say, is a dual VAT‖ levied either by two levels of government or by one level of government and an organization representing such governments.1 A dual VAT is currently used by the federal government of Canada and the provincial government of Quebec, and Bird and Gendron contend that a variant of it could be employed in the European Union EU. This paper extends the Bird-Gendron analysis by describing, with some suggested modifi- cations, an ingenious and elegant scheme for dealing with cross-border trade that is internal to a nation or to a group of nations that wish to a single market without internal fiscal borders, such as the EU. The technique was first proposed by Varsano 1995 as a way to convert the origin-based state VATs of Brazil to the destination basis, but is largely unknown in the English-speaking world.2 My intent is to stimulate discussion and analysis * The author acknowledges his debt to those who first made him aware of the Varsano proposal or have discussed it with him, including especially David Rosenblatt, Ricardo Fenochietto, Richard Bird, Ricardo Varsano, and Fernando Rezende. Richard Bird, Amaresh Bagchi, Sijbren Cnossen, Pierre-Pascal Gendron, Michael Keen, Satya Poddar, Ricardo Varsano, David Wildasin, and an anonymous referee provided useful comments on earlier drafts of this paper or on other papers from which this one derives. The Argentina Country Department of the World Bank supported the initial work on this proposal. As always, the views expressed here, and any errors, are the author’s. 724 MCLURE of the CVAT and its competitors, such as the VIVAT discussed Section 5.2.3 I do not pretend to have answered all the tough questions or to have designed an air-tight system. Essentially, Varsano would impose what I call a compensating VAT‖ hereafter CVAT on sales to registered traders located in other states, rather than simply zero-rating them, as in the systems currently used in Quebec and ostensibly as a transitional‖ measure by the member states of the European Union.4 The CVAT minimizes the risk that households and unregistered traders will attempt to masquerade as registered traders located in other states, in order to make zero-rated purchases.5 While perhaps not needed in Canada, where there is high-quality tax administration and an adequate level of communication and cooperation between federal and provincial tax authorities, or in the EU, the CVAT would provide valu- able protection of revenues, especially in less-developed countries LDCs and countries in transition from socialism CITs, where neither tax administration nor cooperation between tax authorities is as highly developed, and does so in a way that I believe is superior to the superficially similar VIVAT proposed by Keen and Smith 1996. 2. The Varsano Proposal Varsano proposes a dual federal/state VAT systemwhat he calls a shared VATwith the following characteristics6 Uni definition of the base of the federal and state VATs, Uni administration of the federal and state VATs,7 The same state VAT rate in all states, Zero-rating of interstate exports to registered traders state VAT only, Deferred payment of tax on interstate imports by registered traders state VAT only, Application of the CVAT to interstate sales to registered traders, Credit for CVAT on interstate imports by registered traders, Administration of the CVAT by the federal government with state administration of their own VATs, Application of the VAT of the jurisdiction where the vendor is located to interstate sales to households and unregistered traders, and The possibility of intermediate solutions that combine the results of origin and destination-based taxation. I will not discuss most of these features. Zero-rating/deferred payment and the need for both a uni federal and state tax base and uni administration are absolutely essential, but are so obvious as not to deserve detailed discussion. Some other features are more controversial, but are not central to the issue at hand. 725 THE COMPENSATING VAT CVAT Varsano assumes that the CVAT is not a separate tax; instead, it is merged into the federal VAT applied to interstate trade. The federal VAT on interstate trade is higher than the federal VAT on intrastate trade by the amount of the uni state VAT on intrastate trade; there is no state VAT on interstate trade. This feature is important to minimize the necessity to pay refunds on interstate trade. It is, however, unrealistic in the case of the EU, where there is no federal tax. The following discussion treats the CVAT and the federal VAT as separate levies, but considers the possibility of combining them to reduce the need to pay refunds. The choice of a uni state tax rate would simplify administration and minimize dis- tortions of consumer choices discussed below, but would sacrifice one of the primary objectives of assigning revenues from the VAT to state governments, the power of the state of destination of interstate trade to set the tax rate.8 The following analysis is based on the assumption of state autonomy over tax rates; if the states choose uni rates, that is a special case of this more general ulation. The possibility of a hybrid solution combining origin and destination-based taxation might be attractive, in theory, as a means of recognizing the claim of the state of origin to tax interstate trade.9 After all, not all public services are provided to individuals where they live; some are provided to businesses and to individuals where they work.10 Moreover, in the Brazilian context, where the VAT on interstate trade currently follows the origin principle, such a hybrid approach might be necessary for political reasons, at least as a transition device. Even so, I do not discuss the hybrid, as it raises issues that go well beyond the intended scope of this paper, including the politics of changes in tax policy that would cause substantial shifts of tax revenue among jurisdictions and means of ameliorating such shifts. Finally, imposing the CVAT only on sales to registered traders seems to serve no useful purpose; this limitation would complicate compliance and administration, application of the VAT of the state of origin to interstate sales to households and unregistered traders would yield revenue to the wrong‖ state,11 and it would probably be less likely than the CVAT to prevent over- and undertaxation of sales to such purchasers. I assume that the CVAT applies to all interstate sales. 3. The Modified Varsano Proposal In summary, then, the proposal being analyzed here has the following essential features, as applied to interstate sales Uni definition of the state and federal tax base, Uni administration, including all relevant laws,12 VAT rates set by the individual states, Zero-rating of all interstate exports state VAT only, Application of the CVAT to all interstate exports, Deferred payment of state VAT on interstate imports by registered traders state VAT only, and 726 MCLURE Credit for CVAT on interstate imports by registered traders. It may also be appropriate to treat all sales of digitized content over the Internet as interstate exports subject to CVAT, due to the difficulty of determining the location of purchasers. Federal administration of the state and federal VATs and of the CVAT, treated initially as a separate tax, is assumed for expositional convenience.13 Under this system sales local merchants make to local households and unregistered traders bear tax at the local tax rate, but sales to households and unregistered traders in other states are subject to the CVAT. Credit is allowed for tax on purchases by registered traders for the local VAT on intrastate purchases and for the CVAT on interstate purchases. Thus, as is common of credit-based VATs, tax on sales to registered traders is irrelevant, as far as the aggregate VAT on sales to households is concerned. Table 1 summarizes these relationships. Table 1. Summary of tax treatment of key transactions State VAT and CVAT. Intrastate Transactions Interstate Transactions Tax applied Credit allowed registered traders Net tax paid on sales to households and unregistered traders Local VAT Local VAT Local VAT CVAT CVAT CVAT Vendors would need to deal with only three rates plus zero, for exports from the country, only two of which would be relevant for any one domestic sale, as in any system involving taxation by two levels of government the ordinary federal rate on all sales, the local rate on intrastate sales, and the compensating VAT rate on sales to other states.14 There would be no need for merchants to deal with the tax of any other state or to engage in interstate clearing of tax credits discussed further in section 5.1. Of crucial importance for ease of compliance and administration, it would be necessary to distinguish only between intrastate and interstate sales; there would be no need to differentiate between sales to households and unregistered traders and sales to registered traders. For reasons to be explained below, it might be thought desirable to ask merchants to distinguish interstate sales to registered traders from interstate sales to households and unregistered traders. This feature, which is not central to the proposal, would have no impact on tax liabilities, and thus would provide no incentive for cheating. Various countries may answer the following questions differently Should the federal and state governments each administer its own VAT Could a consortium of states administer the CVAT If there are separate state and federal administrations, which administers the CVAT If both federal and state VATs and the CVAT are administered by the same government, which should administer them.15 For convenience, following Varsano, I initially assume federal administration of both state and federal VATs and of the CVAT.16 See also section 4.3 on the problem of excess credits. An illustration. Table 2 illustrates the working of the CVAT. It assumes a three-stage production-distribution process, with value added of 100 in each stage and total value of 727 THE COMPENSATING VAT CVAT Table 2. Illustration of compensating VAT on interstate sales to business Ordinary‖ federal VAT rate 20; State VAT rates 4 in A and 8 in B; Compensating VAT rate 6; Assumptions Column 2, all production in State B; Column 3 Stages 1 and 2 in State A; Stage 3 in State B. Calculation of Tax VAT on sales; credit for VAT net VAT liability Intrastate Sales Interstate Sale from A to B at Stage 2 Transactions State Federal State Tax Federal Tax Purchases, Sales, and Tax Tax Compen- Ordinary Total Value Added A B sating Federal Federal Stage 1 {This stage occurs in state A} a. Purchases/Credits 0 0 0 0 n.a. n.a. 0 0 b. Sales/Tax 100 8 20 4 n.a. n.a. 20 20 c. Value added/ Net tax c b − a 100 8 20 4 n.a. n.a. 20 20 Stage 2 d. Purchases/Credits d b 100 8 20 4 n.a. n.a. 20 20 {Interstate sale from A to B} e. Sales/Tax 200 16 40 0 n.a. 12 40 52 f. Value added/ Net tax f e − d 100 8 20 −4 n.a. 12 20 32 Stage 3 {This stage occurs in state B} g. Purchases/Credits g e 200 16 40 n.a. 0 12 40 52 h. Sales/Tax 300 24 60 n.a. 24 n.a. 60 60 i. Value added/ Net tax i h − g 100 8 20 n.a. 24 −12 20 8 j. Total tax j c f i n.a. 24 60 0 24 0 60 60 n.a. not applicable The first column shows calculation of value added; remaining columns show calculation of tax. Gross tax liability at each stage is calculated by application of the relevant tax rates to sales. Tax credits equal taxes paid on sales at the sales to households of 300. To isolate the mechanics of the CVAT, it is assumed that all sales at the first two stages are to registered traders and that all sales at the third stage are to households. The first column summarizes these transactions. Gross liability for VAT federal, state, and CVAT at each stage is calculated by application of the relevant tax rates to sales. Net liability is calculated by deducting credits for VAT federal, state, and CVAT paid on purchased s; these equal taxes paid on sales at the previous stage. 728 MCLURE It is assumed that state A imposes a VAT of 4 percent and state B imposes a VAT of 8 percent. The federal government imposes two taxes the ordinary‖ federal VAT of 20 percent and a CVAT of 6 percent in interstate sales. The rate of the CVAT is assumed for convenience to lie midway between the two state rates. Alternatively, it could equal the highest state rate, the lowest state rate, or any rate between, without affecting the basic conclusions presented here. The choice of this rate is discussed further below. The second set of columns shows the calculation of liabilities for state and federal VAT if all three stages occur in state B; it serves as a useful benchmark. The state collects VAT of 24 8 percent of total sales to households of 300 and the federal government collects VAT of 60 20 percent of 300. The third set of columns illustrates the operation of the CVAT, assuming that the first two stages occur in state A and only the third occurs in state B.17 Thus, Stage 1 occurs in state A, Stage 2 involves an interstate sale by producers in state A to registered traders in state B, and Stage 3 involves sales to households by registered

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