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The rise of modern taxation: A new comprehensive dataset of tax introductions worldwide

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This article describes the new Tax Introduction Dataset (TID). Listing the year and the mode of the first permanent introduction of six major taxes (inheritance tax, personal income tax, corporate income tax, social security contributions, general sales tax and value added tax) in 220 countries, 1750–2018, TID is the most comprehensive dataset of its kind. The comprehensiveness of our measure is of critical value to empirical work on the causes of tax innovation and its consequences for state, society and economy. In this paper, we explain the selection of our tax sample and the structure of the dataset, descriptively map temporal and regional patterns of tax introductions around the world, and draw on TID to investigate associations between tax introductions and economic development, war, and democratization.

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  1. Obviously, temporary emergency taxes may turn into permanent taxes. The relevant criteria for TID is the factual permanence of a tax. See the code book for further detail (Genschel and Seelkopf 2019). The codebook, the dataset as well as further supplementary material is available on the Review of International Organizations’ webpage. Please visit for the most recent data version.

  2. 25 countries no longer exist. They include historical states that have since been enveloped by larger states, such as the Republic of Vietnam or East Germany, as well as large historical states that have since fragmented, such as Great Colombia, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia.

  3. Note that small UN member states such as Andorra or Antigua and Barbuda are included in COW/TID even though they have populations substantially smaller than 500.000. This is important for tax research because many tax havens are very small (Genschel et al. 2016).

  4. For more information on the TID country list and its differences to the COW list, please consult the TID codebook (Genschel and Seelkopf 2019).

  5. In addition, we also collected information on the tax rate in the year of introduction as well as a dummy for subnational tax introduction: was the national introduction of a tax preceded by an introduction of the same tax at the subnational level? The data on these two variables are not exhaustive, hence we don’t present them here.

  6. For further information on coding rules for missings and never introduced see the code book (Genschel and Seelkopf 2019). The current version of the dataset includes just around 4% (57 cases) of fully missing cases. For another 7% we know that the tax was introduced, but have no information on the mode and/or the year. For a very small minority of cases (10 or 0.8%) we know the mode but not the year of introduction, implying that we have full information for 1169 or 88% of our cases.

  7. For more information on our search strategy, see the Codebook (Genschel and Seelkopf 2019).

  8. The Financing the State dataset covering 31 countries from the early nineteenth century is probably the best source available (Andersson and Brambor 2018).

  9. Sometimes, SSCs are charged on other forms of income as well. For instance, the SSC system adopted in Chile in 1924 included mandatory contribution for self-employed persons with a weekly turnover of up to five thousand pesos (Chile 1924 art. 1–11).

  10. Withholding at source means that income tax is remitted by the payer of income rather than the income-recipient, i.e. the employer remits tax on behalf of its employees (before paying out net-wages), the bank remits tax on behalf of savers (before paying out net-interest earnings) (Slemrod 2007).

  11. Low income caps tend to increase the regressivity of SSCs, high caps tend to lower it (Ganghof 2007, 1075).

  12. It is suggestive of the perceived success that an existing VAT has only ever been removed in six cases —Vietnam (in the 1970s), Grenada (introduced 1986, dismantled shortly thereafter), Ghana (introduced March 1995, removed 2 months later), Malta (introduced 1995, removed 1997), Belize (introduced 1996, removed 1999) and British Columbia (introduced 2010, removed 2011). However, in all cases, except for British Colombia, the tax has since been reintroduced: Ghana in 1998, Malta and Vietnam in 1999, Belize in 2006 and Grenada in 2010 (International Tax Dialogue 2013, 17; Financial Tribune 2017).

  13. Is the differences in diffusion speed ‘real’ or is it driven by changes in the composition of the country sample (i.e. by a secular increase in the number of tax jurisdictions)? We address this question below.

  14. Note, however, that the first modern tax ever to be introduced was a SSC: In 1758 the German principality of Baden, an independent state until German unification in 1871, introduced a contribution-based survivor pension system for its civil servants.

  15. We have searched quite extensively for such a dataset, but could not find a solution. Building such a dataset ourselves would require at least as much effort to create than TID. Hence, we decided to rely on the COW state list, one of the most commonly used political science databases, and extend it wherever necessary (see Genschel and Seelkopf 2019).

  16. British India introduced the CIT already in 1886, Britain only in 1965.

  17. In a nutshell, the cost diseases argument goes like this: government is labor-intensive; labor-intensive industries tend to have lower productivity gains than more capital-intensive businesses; as a consequence, the government has to spend more on the provision of labor-intensive public services in order to keep the ratio of these services constant with the rising output of income and wealth by the more capital-intensive private sector.

  18. We define the risk-of-introduction year of a tax as 10 years prior to its first introduction worldwide. As a consequence, the analysis of the following three taxes does not start 1816 but at a later date: CIT (1863–2015), GST (1894–2015), VAT (1957–2015). PIT, INH and SSCs already existed by 1816.

  19. Gapminder merges data from various sources to arrive at a comprehensive dataset that covers both colonies and independent states from 1800 until today. More information on the variable creation can be found here:

  20. We follow the convention in the literature and count conflicts with more than 1000 battle death as major wars. As a robustness check, we also include a dummy that takes on the value 1 for conflict years and observations 10 years before/after a conflict took place.

  21. These are Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.

  22. RoW includes all sovereign countries, for which data is available, minus the OECD-18.

  23. There are only three exceptional cases, in which the same factor is associated with the same tax introduction in both country groups. These are modernization in the case of SSC introduction, as well as war and democratization in the case of INH introduction.


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The authors would like to thank Guy Whitten, Florian Hollenbach, Christine Lipsmeyer, Didac Queralt, Pablo Beramendi, Melissa Rogers,Carles Boix, José Cheibub, Lucy Martin, Ken Scheve, Hilary Appel, Ewout Frankema, Klaus Schlichte, Suthan Krishnarajan, participants at EPSA 2017/8, ECPR 2018, workshops in Bremen and Vienna, as well as Axel Dreher and three anonymous referees for very helpful comments. The authors gratefully acknowledge funding by the EUI Research Council, 2016–2018, the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, and the School of Transnational Governance.

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Seelkopf, L., Bubek, M., Eihmanis, E. et al. The rise of modern taxation: A new comprehensive dataset of tax introductions worldwide. Rev Int Organ 16, 239–263 (2021).

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