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Taxes are on the rise across the countries of the EU – New 2012 calendar of EU-27 Tax Freedom Days reveals

Media Release

At what point in the year does a typical taxpayer keep his earnings and stop paying the state – his “tax freedom day”? The only EU-wide study using consistent methodology calculates how long people have to work in 27 EU member countries in 2012 before they can keep their earnings and stop paying the state. It is published today on the Irish Tax Freedom Day today. British taxpayers have their Tax Freedom Day tomorrow on 12 May. Maltese and Cypriots have already stopped paying into their state’s coffers. Belgians maintain their record of being the worst afflicted andhave to wait until 5 August.

Brussels, Tuesday July 24, 2012 – For the third consecutive year an EU wide calendar of “Tax Freedom Days” for typical workers in each of the 27 EU member countries has been released today – on the Irish Tax Freedom Day for 2012. The study is published by New Direction – Foundation for the European Reform and Institut économique Molinari (IEM)with data provided by Ernst & Young. Using one consistent methodology across all EU member countries, with data reflecting the tax reality experienced by real, working people, the study calculates the TAX FREEDOM DAYs for 2012 as follows:


Key findings of the study include

• As a single economic entity, typical workers across the European Union saw their average “real tax rate” rise again this year, from 44.23% in 2011 to 44.89% in 2012. The rise of nearly one full percent since 2010 is largely a consequence of VAT increases in 15 EU member states since 2009.

• Belgium retains its ranking as the country that taxes labour at the highest rate in the European Union; an employer in Brussels spends 2.45€ to put 1€ into a typical worker’s pocket – and that worker’s tax liberation day is August 5. Belgium has held its position since 2011 when Hungary, previously the most severe tax collector, implemented a flat tax scheme.

• 43.3% of all payroll taxes collected in the EU countries – employer contributions to social security paid on top of gross salaries – are largely invisible to employees.

• Retired, disabled, disenfranchised or simply too young, more than half (54.7%) of citizens are not in the labour force. Tax-wise, working people carry most of the weight, that grows heavier as populations grow even older. Since 2010, the proportion of Europeans outside the labour force has grown 0.4%.

• Flat tax policies have offered considerable tax relief to workers – notably in Hungary, where a new 16% rate has pushed that country’s tax liberation day forward by 25 days in just two years. However, total taxes remain higher in « flat tax » countries (46.2%) than in « progressive » systems (44.3%) – a gap that has widened since 2010.


“One of the best ways to encourage growth in our economies is to cut taxes, particularly on income and businesses. This means governments have to stop spending so much taxpayers’ money. Too many governments responded to excessive deficits by increasing taxes instead of cutting state spending. People and businesses are already paying too much – the tax burden should be going down not up,” said President of New Direction Geoffrey Van Orden MEP.

« Belgium seems to win gold once again…France finishes second but 10 days behind. In fact the normal average taxpayer in Belgium needs to work until August 5th to actually start gaining a net salary. By waiting a total of 221 days before actually earning a salary or wage, Belgians thereby are the most taxed species in Europe. Yet the newly formed Belgian government seems determined to prevail with full glamour in this category in future years as well. Belgium also wins the gold-medal in the category of having the highest labour costs in Europe. As with the 100m and 200m races, these medals are interrelated – making Belgium a less attractive country for foreign investments. I am afraid that a considerable percentage of foreign investors perceive the recent government tax measures as quite negative for business, thus possibly impacting a decision to dis-invest in Belgium. The first conclusions of our perception analysis, conducted with investors in March as part of Ernst & Young’s yearly attractiveness study, will be released at the end of May, » says HerwigJoosten, National Tax Leader, Ernst & Young Belgium.

“EU states spend too much and it is not by increasing Europe’s already amazingly high taxes that we will solve the current crisis. It is time to rethink our model and the role of the State,” says Cécile Philippe, director of IEM.

Tax Freedom Day is the calendar day on which a worker theoretically stops working to pay taxes to the state and begins to keep his/her earnings. The data in the calendar reflect the reality experienced by real, working people in the European Union and the true cost of hiring employees in each state.

“Many believe falsely that their payslips show all of the taxes withheld from their salaries. In fact, nearly half of what Europe’s governments collect – social security contributions paid by employers on top of salaries – is invisible to workers,” explained James Rogers, one of the authors of the study.

* * *

The study, written by James Rogers and Cécile Philippe of Institut économique Molinari (Paris), analysed annual salary figures for typical workers from Eurostat and the OECD. Payroll tax calculations were made by Ernst & Young.

The 2012 study is available in French and in English on our website.

Note to Editors
New Direction – The Foundation for European Reform is a free market think-tank established in Brussels in 2010 to add innovative ideas and encourage reform efforts in Europe. Together with a strong network of partner think tanks around Europe, New Direction produces original and relevant research papers focusing on the most pressing issues in the area of economic growth, competition, financial regulation, energy security, taxation, defence, agricultural policy, bureaucracy and EU institutional affairs.

The Institut économique Molinari (IEM) is an independent, non-profit research and educational organization based in Paris. Its mission is to promote an economic approach to the study of public policy issues by offering innovative solutions that foster prosperity for all.

For more information please contact the authors of the study:

Cécile Philippe

Director – Institut économique Molinari

+33 678 869 858

James Rogers

Researcher – Institut économique Molinari

+ 32 497 946 840

L’Institut économique Molinari

Voir tous les articles de l'IEM

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