Minister: Tax burden should move towards consumption, consensus key

Minister of Finance Keit Pentus-Rosimannus (Reform).
Minister of Finance Keit Pentus-Rosimannus (Reform). Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

A shift of the tax burden away from the income-earning individual and towards 'brown taxes', meaning those on consumption and pollution, seems inevitable in the light of demographic trends and environmental targets, finance minister Keit Pentus-Rosimannus (Reform) says.

Making her remarks in the context of a Foresight Center report on potential development options for the Estonian tax system, Pentus-Rosimannus said that: "With this change and the future in mind, Estonia has long been moving in the right direction at a good pace."

"By this I mean reducing the personal income tax from 26 percent to 20 percent, and  even more the overall shift in taxation from income to consumption," she continued, according to a ministry press release.

Pentus-Rosimannus added that there is plenty in Estonia's tax system which is good and so which does not need to be dismantled.

On the issue of tax inequality, the minister said that: "This is above all a matter of long-term social peace. These are, above all, capital and property taxes."

"It's a question of balance. If we tax inequality too little, we risk social unrest and a build-up of tensions. If we tax too much, we risk an outflow of more entrepreneurial people and their capital and innovation," she continued.

The minister says she has has convened a broad-based group of experts, who are to report back next year on potential changes.

"Given that we are going through a unique demographic and technological revolution, we could therefore try once again to think completely outside the box and keep everything that is already working in the right direction."

The tax debate should never start uncritically with the question of who should be made to pay the most money that could be spent, but rather on what services there is a consensus on collectively paying for, while in the future there should be more focus on how changes to the tax system affect the overall competitiveness of the Estonian economy, including inflow and outflow of investments, technologies and labor, in order to make a "future-proof system", the minister went on.

This is particularly the case given the digital and green transitions have not yet been concluded."

In September, Pentus-Rosimannus met with U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and the Secretary-General of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Mathias Cormann to discuss reforms the organization set in July aiming for a global minimum of 15 percent corporate tax.

Estonia broadly rejects the imposition of the global minimum tax, which would apply to corporations with revenue exceeding €750 million, but accepts another of the reforms' aspects, a digital tax for corporations which have a group revenue exceeding €20 billion.

Estonia currently has no corporate income tax on retained and reinvested profits, meaning Estonian resident companies and permanent establishments of foreign entities (including branches) are subject to 0 percent income tax for all reinvested and retained profits, plus a 14-20 percent income tax for all distributed profits (source: Invest in Estonia).


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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