The application of VAT and indirect 'cascade' taxes on financial services : the case of Greece, a comparative evaluation with Spain and Portugal
This thesis aimed to investigate: a) the distortions arising from the existing system of indirect taxation of financial services in Greece and the EU Member States; b) the economic effects of taxing financial services under the V AT system in Greece including the estimation of the fiscal revenue loss under the currently applied financial exemptions; c) the economic effects on total tax revenues, expenditures and growth of the existing indirect financial taxes in Greece, Spain and Portugal. The research design included a review and synthesis of the academic literature and was based on: a) comparative study of the relevant legislation, b) construction of input-output/ economic tables for financial sectors, and c) analysis of time-series data, employing mainly the Johansen methodology to test for cointegration among the variables. The analytical research yielded: a) a detailed profile, through the study of legislation, of VAT treatment of financial services in Greece and the other EU Member States, identifying similarities and differences as well as potential sources for distortions of competition; b) estimation of the economic effects of taxing financial services under the Greek VAT system, using the input-output/economic tables; c) a detailed profile of the indirect tax structure in Greece, Spain and Portugal, estimating the marginal productivity and elasticity of indirect taxes (i.e. VAT, consumption and indirect financial taxes) as well as the average effective tax rates on consumption; d) identification of the impact of consumption and indirect financial taxes on total revenues, expenditures and growth (employing the Johansen methodology to test for cointegration). These findings enabled us to draw conclusions about: a) the economic implications of taxing financial services under the VAT system in Greece. We obtained an estimate of 5.51% of VAT revenues over the period 1989-1998 for the fiscal revenue loss of exempting financial sectors from VAT in Greece; b) the economic effects of consumption taxes (i.e. taxes that fall only on final consumption) and indirect financial taxes (i.e. taxes that may fall on intermediate and investment goods) identifying similarities and differences in Greece, Spain and Portugal. We found that consumption taxes (including VAT) may affect permanently the level of real output. This effect could be either negative or positive depending on the whole tax structure in each country. On the other hand, although indirect financial taxes may have a positive impact on total tax rate, their effects on growth are minor and negative. However, indirect financial taxes are important for spending decisions in Spain and Portugal. In addition, the thesis enabled the deyelopment of guidelines and of a transitional operational model for the indirect taxation of financial services. Finally, the limitations of this thesis are outlined in the conclusions and concrete avenues for future research are provided.