Acton Institute Powerblog

When is Tax Freedom Day 2017 in the EU?

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Tax Freedom Day dawns in the U.S. earlier than 26 of the EU’s 28 member states. For two European nations, the date when employees stopped paying taxes and began earning money for themselves and their families came last week.

Americans celebrated Tax Freedom Day shortly after they paid their taxes, this year: April 23, according to the Tax Foundation. Members of the European Union are not so lucky.

A new report calculated Tax Freedom Day across every nation of the EU and found that no nation laid a lighter burden on its citizens, except Cyprus and Malta.

Tax Freedom Day came latest in three “laggards”: France, Belgium, and Austria, which have a tax burden of 57.41 percent, 56.74 percent, and 54.28 percent respectively.

French workers paid taxes until July 29.

The cost of high taxation on employees is enormous. “Net salaries remain de facto halved by various payroll taxes, income tax, and VAT,” the report states. For every €100 in net income, the average employee in the EU keeps just €55.20 after taxes and fees.

After taxes, the average EU-28 employee’s salary falls from €32,652 to €17,658 (or approximately $38,787 to $20,976 U.S.).

Greeks work 203 days for the government. “Reversing this index should be our national goal,” said Adonis Georgiades, vice chairman of the New Democracy Party, the center-right party of Greece.

Unfortunately, Greece is one of 13 EU nations moving in the wrong direction by increasing its tax burden. Lithuania added a full week to its tax calendar. Others nations where policy postponed the liberation from compulsory taxation by at least one day included Sweden, Malta, Latvia, Greece, Bulgaria, and Italy.

“As they emerged from the deep 2009 recession, a significant number of EU countries have sought to rebalance their public accounts by increasing taxes on employers and individuals rather than cutting spending,” the report says. “Thus, the majority of EU member states avoided free-market policies to boost economic growth and stimulate business activity.”

However, 15 of the 28 EU member states have reduced taxes over the last year. This has rolled back Tax Freedom Day in Hungary, Luxembourg, Portugal, Ireland, Finland, Romania, Cyprus, Croatia, and Austria.

Employers also pay the price of expansive government. The average employer has to spend €185 to give an employee €100 worth of purchasing power in 2017. In France, an employer must spend €235 for the same €100.

It’s little wonder French businesses are averse to hiring new employees.

The report from the Institut économique Molinari, written by Economic Policy Center research fellow Giovanni Caccavello, was released on July 27 – Tax Freedom Day in Belgium, it notes.

The full list is as follows:

March 27:      Cyprus

April 19:        Malta

April 23:         Ireland

May 9:           United Kingdom

May 21:          Bulgaria

May 29:          Luxembourg

June 1:            Denmark

June 8:            Spain

June 9:            Estonia and Slovenia

June 11:          Portugal

June 12:          Croatia

June 14:          Poland

June 19:          Finland

June 20:          Lithuania, Czech Republic, Romania, The Netherlands, Latvia, and Slovakia

June 23:          Sweden

July 5:            Hungary

July 8:            Italy

July 10:          Greece and Germany

July 18:          Austria

July 27:          Belgium

July 29:          France

The study shows the vast difference between EU nations but also the distance between the United States and the EU as a whole. This in part explains the EU’s all-consuming focus on combating “tax avoidance” and concern that Theresa May will reduce tax rates after Brexit.

But the report is important for the transatlantic sphere for more than merely comparative purposes for at least three reasons.

First, as Professor Richard Teather has shown at Religion & Liberty Transatlantic, high-tax and high-spending nations have lower rates of job creation. That makes it more difficult for young people to find gainful employment and launch into adulthood – including getting married and having children, even as the EU faces a demographic winter.

Second, a higher tax burden leaves families with less disposable income to spend on their priorities. Instead, their salary goes to causes chosen by politicians and regulators – often subject to corruption and cronyism. It means less money for private philanthropy, churches (for non-established churches), and less power in the hands of consumers.

Finally, these funds are often used to fund expensive social welfare programs that deplete initiative and entrepreneurship even further. As brilliant European once wrote, “the Social Assistance State leads to a loss of human energies and an inordinate increase of public agencies, which are dominated more by bureaucratic ways of thinking than by concern for serving their clients, and which are accompanied by an enormous increase in spending.”

Although on the same side of the International Date Line, economic policy means that the U.S. and the EU are worlds apart.

(You can read the full report here.)

(Photo credit: Peter Linke. Public domain.)

Rev. Ben Johnson Rev. Ben Johnson is Senior Editor at the Acton Institute.


  • John Benson

    Ben, when you start out with the false conclusion that taxes are bad or that they work against individuals and their family, then you come to false conclusions that a nearer “Tax Freedom Day” is a good thing and a later one is bad. Taxes, when used and invested wisely, create public property. Is it not Lord Acton who states property is the basis of liberty? Then the creation of public parks, public services, public schools and universities is all in the interest of creating greater liberty for all citizens.

    In the political economy, of which taxes are a mechanism for the flow of funds that represents a portion of our individual contribution to civil society, Lord Acton said that self-preservation and self-denial are active forces that create its basis. There is a concern for preserving Self, at the heart of every person. To the service of that preservation within civil society is the recognition of the need for self-denial. Taxation is one form of that self-denial that is necessary for civil society. It is a way in which we fund the creation of and maintenance of the public property that is vital for the functioning of a civil society to help counterbalance the tendency of Capitalism toward the accumulation and concentration of property in the hands of powerful. As Acton is quoted, “…We combined and put things in common to protect the weak against the strong.” So when you cry against taxation, you are essentially trying to thwart our Federal government system from protecting the weak against the strong.

    A criticism Lord Acton might have against the Institute named after him is this: “A public man has no right to let his actions be determined by particular interests. He does the same thing as a judge who accepts a bribe. Like a judge he must consider what is right, not what is advantageous to a party or class.” The funding the Institute receives from moneyed interests keeps it from truly advocating for what is right. You put your thumb on the scale of justice and advocate that it tilt in the favor of the individual and against the interest of society. That is unjust. Lord Acton call for a Just society. It is not just for property to be concentrated in the hands of so few people. It is just for the Federal government to re-balance the scale of Justice when necessary. Today, it is necessary. Today, the Wealthy and powerful need to contribute more from their property through self-denial so that the weak can experience a greater sense of self-preservation. Jesus calls all people of property and power to give to the weak and powerless because it is Just.