Does A Lower Income Tax Make For A Happier Country?

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How do you measure happiness you may think? It isn’t quantitative data you can collect. Yet, according to the World Happiness Report, Finland is the happiest country in the world. The report was compiled from the answers of a series of questions relating to the quality of people’s lives, from 0 to 10. The average was taken from over 2015-2017, with 156 countries taking part. 

The results were calculated against a theoretical country called Dystopia, which holds the lowest national averages for 2015-2017. Explanations for the levels of happiness per country were broken down into the following areas: 

• GDP per capita 
• Social support 
• Healthy life expectancy 
• Freedom to make life choices 
• Generosity 
• Perceptions of corruption 

But what adds to the joy of a country and its inhabitant? Is there a correlation between less income tax with health and happiness, for example, as we lose less of our hard-earned wage? Let's explore the matter further, starting with the lowest income-taxed countries.

Countries With The Lowest Income Tax 

To begin with, we investigate the lowest income-taxed countries. According to this report, which excludes oil-rich nations in the Middle East and Russia, the lowest income tax rates are enjoyed by: 

1. Cayman Islands — 0% domestic tax. 
2. The Bahamas — 0% income tax rate. 
3. Guatemala — 7% individual tax rate, 25% corporate tax rate. 
4. Bulgaria — flat 10% tax on all personal income. 
5. Bolivia — flat 13% income tax rate (but tax on luxury items varies, plus 13% VAT). 
6. Lithuania — flat 15% on all individual income. 
7. Romania — 16% income tax rate and corporate tax rate. 
8. Ukraine — 18% income tax rate. 
9. Singapore — operates a sliding scale. 22% on income over S$320,000 (£177,903); below S$22,000 (£12,230) is 0%. Corporate tax rate is 17%. 
10. Latvia — 23% individual tax rate. Corporation tax rate is 15%. 

So, where do these nations arrive in the World Happiness Report? In the report of 156 countries, we placed the benchmark at 50th place — anything above 50th place would be deemed “happy” and anything below 50th place would be deemed “unhappy” in comparison. 

Countries that did not register any data in the report were both The Cayman Islands and Bahamas, sadly. Guatemala came 30th, Bulgaria 100th, Bolivia 66th, Lithuania 50th, Romania 52nd, Ukraine 138th, Singapore 34th, and Latvia 53rd . 

Countries With The Highest Amount Of Income Tax 

Now, how about we contrast this with the most to the highest income-taxed countries. Nomad Capitalist named 15 high-tax countries: Germany, Ireland, Greece, Italy, Slovenia, Israel, France, Finland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Denmark, Japan, Portugal, and Sweden. Sweden has an income tax rate as high as 57.1%. 

The article recommends that individuals should look to different places with regards to moving to another country, with the author Andrew Henderson stating: “I would advise you to think twice when it comes to being a resident of one of these countries […] pick a place that treats you best.” 

The statement would back the notion that a higher tax rate would results in a lower overall level of happiness. This would seemingly support the idea of a higher tax rate resulting in a lower level of happiness. Again, with 50th place as our benchmark, let’s see where these high-tax countries landed on the World Happiness Report

 Germany – 15th 
 Ireland – 14th 
 Greece – 79th 
 Italy – 47th 
 Slovenia – 51st 
 Israel – 11th 
 France – 23rd 
 Finland – 1st 
 The Netherlands – 6th 
 Belgium – 16th 
 Austria – 12th 
 Denmark – 3rd 
 Japan – 54th 
 Portugal – 77th 
 Sweden – 9th 

So, regardless of the higher expense rates of these nations, just four have arrived under the 50th place bench-mark. In fact, four appear in the top ten happiest countries. None of the lower-tax rate countries broke into the top ten, in contrast. So overall income factors do end up playing a factor when it comes to overall resident satisfaction, not just the taxes. 

The Guardian investigated the higher tax rates of Sweden, and noted that the use of higher tax afforded the country numerous benefits: affordable childcare, joint parental leave of 480 days, pensions, and unemployment support of 80% of your previous salary for the first 200 days. 

Where did the UK place, you ask? Well, the World Happiness Report places the United Kingdom at 19th. Turns out, we’re a pretty happy country too! 

I hope you enjoyed this article about whether a nation's income tax level affects its level of happiness and satisfaction.

Interested in more articles about international business and economics?

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