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Fiscal Federalism in Belgium: Main Challenges and Considerations for Reform

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  • Willi Leibfritz
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    Abstract

    The paper discusses the current state of fiscal relations across levels of government in Belgium and how it has developed over time. As the current system of fiscal federalism is creating imbalances between the federal and the sub-federal governments (vertical imbalance), and between sub-federal governments (horizontal imbalance) the paper also suggests directions for improvements. Without reform, the vertical imbalance will widen as the fiscal burden from the ageing of the population falls mainly on the federal level. Reform should therefore strengthen the fiscal capacity of the federal government by improving its revenue sources and by shifting some spending obligations to sub-federal governments. The imbalance between regions arises because of the lack of coherence between taxation and spending. Shared revenues from the personal income tax are allocated to the region of residence, while the region of the workplace does not benefit, which particularly affects Brussels’ revenue level. This imbalance could be eliminated by allocating more of the shared personal income tax to the region of the workplace. Furthermore, the system of equalisation grants should be re-designed to provide incentives to the recipient regions to develop their own revenue base. The performance of the fiscal system could further be improved by raising the efficiency of spending in areas of national interest, which have been assigned to sub-federal governments or where there are overlapping responsibilities, such as in employment, R&D, training, education, energy and environmental policies. Fédéralisme budgétaire en Belgique : Défis principaux et réformes envisageables Cet document de travail porte sur l’état actuel des relations budgétaires entre les différents niveaux d’administration en Belgique ainsi que sur la manière dont celles-ci ont évolué au fil du temps. Partant du constat que le système qui donne corps au fédéralisme budgétaire est source de déséquilibres entre l’administration fédérale et les échelons infra-fédéraux (déséquilibre vertical) de même qu’entre les différentes entités fédérées (déséquilibre horizontal), les auteurs esquissent des orientations pour l’améliorer. Faute de réformes, le déséquilibre vertical ne fera que s’accentuer dans la mesure où la charge budgétaire imposée par le vieillissement de la population grèvera principalement le budget fédéral. Aussi la réforme devra-telle viser à renforcer la capacité budgétaire de l’administration fédérale en améliorant ses sources de recettes et en faisant basculer la charge représentée par certaines dépenses obligatoires sur les entités fédérées. Le déséquilibre entre régions résulte du manque de cohérence entre fiscalité et dépenses. Les recettes partagées provenant de l’impôt sur le revenu des personnes physiques sont attribuées à la région de résidence tandis que la région du lieu de travail n’en bénéficie pas, ce qui pénalise particulièrement la région de Bruxelles-Capitale en termes de recettes. Cette anomalie pourrait être corrigée en attribuant à la région du lieu de travail une proportion plus élevée des recettes partagées de l’impôt sur le revenu des personnes physiques. Par ailleurs, il conviendrait de réorganiser le système des subventions de péréquation afin d’inciter les régions bénéficiaires à développer leurs propres sources de recettes fiscales. La performance du système budgétaire pourrait être encore améliorée si l’on réussissait à accroître l’efficience des dépenses dans les domaines d’intérêt national qui sont du ressort des entités fédérées ou dans lesquels on observe un chevauchement de compétences, qu’il s’agisse des politiques de l’emploi, de la R-D, de la formation, de l’éducation, de l’énergie et de l’environnement.

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    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/218562648706
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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by OECD Publishing in its series OECD Economics Department Working Papers with number 743.

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    Date of creation: 14 Dec 2009
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    Handle: RePEc:oec:ecoaaa:743-en

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    Keywords: fiscal federalism; equalisation; fiscal co-ordination; tax assignment;

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