20 of the highest tax countries in the world

This article will look at 20 high-tax countries and suggest at the bottom of the article how you can change your residency, to pay less tax.

The article looks at both direct, and indirect taxes, top and lower rates of tax. It focuses on individual tax, and not rates for corporations.

For those interested in second residencies, or financial services advice more generally, you can email me (advice@adamfayed.com).

In no particular order, we start the list at number 1.

  1. Portugal

Portugal is a country well known for the Port Wine, Beaches, Food, and famous athlete Cristiano Ronaldo. It is also famous for the taxation it imposes upon its residents.

The tax rate in Portugal can go up to 61%, but it is also possible to live tax free for 10 years, as a resident.

Real Estate Tax is applicable in the form of Property Tax and Transfer Taxes. In the year 2016, Portugal has added an additional 3.5% tax for the individuals whose income is more than the minimum wage.

Given below are the general tax rates applicable to the residents of Portugal.

Corporate Tax Income Tax with the lowest marginal rate Income Tax with the highest marginal rate Value-added Tax
21% 14.5% up to 7001 euros 48% + 11% (social security tax) 23% (standard rate)

2. Slovenia:

Slovenia is a European Country which is famous for having three types of cultures available (German, Latin, and Slavic). Slovenia has around 2.5 million population and is an advanced state with a developed economy in the modern communist world. 

The tax rates in Slovenia are 61.1%. There is an availability of additional allowances such as an income tax allowance for some selected categories of people such as disabled people, people having other people depending upon them, etc.

Generally, taxation is influenced by different types of factors and the taxes on the types of income that are imposed upon the residents by the Slovenian government are employment income, business income, agricultural income, forestry-based income, rental income, royalty income, income from dividends, interest, and capital gains, etc.

The tax rates for the residents of Slovenia imposed by its government are as follows.

Corporate Tax Income Tax with the lowest marginal rate Income Tax with the highest marginal rate Value-added Tax
19% 16% 50% 22% or  9.5%

3. Aruba

Aruba is an Island cuntry belonging to the Kingdom of Netherlands and is located in the Caribbean Sea. It one of the three islands of the group known as the ‘ABC Islands’ (which stands for Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao). Aruba is divided into eight major parts for the purpose of the census. The capital of Aruba is ‘Oranjestad’.

The types of taxes applicable to the citizens of Aruba are sales tax, revenue tax, income tax, VAT, etc. the native people of Aruba are subjected to a tax on both worldwide income as well as the income earned within the country whereas the non-residents are subjected to a tax for the income earned in the country of Aruba only. 

The overall tax rates of Aruba are around 58.95% and the general taxes imposed on the public are as follows.

Corporate Tax Income Tax with the lowest marginal rate Income Tax with the highest marginal rate Value-added Tax
25% 7% 58.95% 1.5%

4. Canada

Canada, located in the northern part of North America, has a population of around 38 million. The country of Canada is well known for its cool climate and the diversified geographical conditions.

The types of taxes available for the people of Canada are VAT, income tax, sales tax, property tax, corporate tax, etc. the maximum tax rate applicable to the people of Canada is 54% in a province known as Nova Scotia. 

The general tax rates that are imposed upon the people by the government of Canada are given in the below table.

Corporate Tax Income Tax with the lowest marginal rate Income Tax with the highest marginal rate Value-added Tax
38%-12% (highest and lowest marginal rates) 19% 54% 15% (including 10% provincial tax and a 5% federal tax)

5. Belgium

Belgium is another European country which comes third in our list. There are two major languages spoken in Belgium, which are French and Dutch. It is also a major member of Organizations such as NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), the European Union, etc. 

The tax rate of Belgium can be as high as 58.4% and has both national income tax and regional income tax applicable to its residents. Depending on the location of the real estate belonging to a person, the taxes can be 10% or 12.5%. Capital Gains are taxed at a rate similar to that of the income tax.

The general tax rates applicable to the citizens of Belgium are given as follows.

Corporate Tax Income Tax with the lowest marginal rate Income Tax with the highest marginal rate Value-added Tax
29.58% 25% 58.4% 21%

6. Finland

Finland has taxes as high as 57.5%. The tax returns of the residents are generally filled by the tax authorities. National Taxes, Municipal Taxes, Social Security Taxes, Church Taxes, etc., are the examples for the types of taxes that are levied upon the people.

There are some deductions for the income earned such as travel expenses, tools and equipment costs, commuting expenditure, etc. Income from the capital has tax rates of 30% for income earned up to 30,000 euros and 34% for the amount of income exceeding 30,000 euros.

7. Sweden

Sweden is near the top of the league table in terms of tax. It is the 7th richest country in the world based on the terms of GDP per capita and the living standards are among the top countries. Despite having the highest income rates, there are no inheritance tax, estate tax, wealth tax, etc.

Sweden is the fifth-highest tax collecting country and ranks first when it comes to collecting the income tax. The tax rate of Sweden is 57.1% and the government of Sweden taxes incomes earned from the business, employment, and capital.

The general tax rates of Sweden are given below.

Corporate Tax Income Tax with the lowest marginal rate Income Tax with the highest marginal rate Value-added Tax
21.4% 32% 57% 25% (standard rate) or 12%, 6% (reduced rate)

8. Japan

In terms of nominal GDP, Japan stands in the third position right after the USA and China. Japan is the 10th largest populated country. The capital city of Japan (Tokyo) is said to have the highest number of millionaires in the world among all the other cities in the world.

Japan collects the highest tax rates among all other Asian countries with a tax rate of 55.95%. Japan’s tax system is considered as a Progressive Tax system and the taxation for the non-residents in Japan is different from that of the native people. 

Income Tax in Japan is based on the status of their residence. People living in Japan for less than a year are subjected to an income tax for the income generated only in Japan.

The Income Tax applicable is collected as 10% by the local tax authorities for the lowest and highest marginal rate. The general taxation for the people of Japan is collected by the government as follows. 

Corporate Tax Income Tax with the lowest marginal rate Income Tax with the highest marginal rate Value-added Tax
29.74% 15.105% (Where 10% is local tax) 55.945% (where 10% is local tax) 25% (standard rate) or 12%, 6% (reduced rate)

9. Denmark

Denmark stands at the 18th place according to GDP per capita and 6th place according to the nominal GDP per capita. The taxation policy for the people of Denmark is conceptualized in order to attain equal access for different types of paid services.

The tax rate of Denmark can be as high as 55.8%, which is set by the government of Denmark to meet the requirements of its citizens. Although having substantially higher taxes, high taxation can be justified as it is utilized by the government for the welfare of the people.

The residents of Denmark are liable for the taxation of their income earned either from Denmark or worldwide income. For the non-residents, Denmark doesn’t tax people from the countries which have a tax treaty with Denmark as it would lead to double Taxation.

The general tax rates imposed upon the people of Denmark by the government are as follows.

Corporate Tax Income Tax with the lowest marginal rate Income Tax with the highest marginal rate Value-added Tax
22% 39.86% 55.86% 25%

10. Austria

Austria is among the well-developed German-speaking countries. Austria can be quite beautiful to explore. The income tax rate of Austria can climb to 55%. 

The social security tax in Austria is 18% and taxes for capital gains are 25%. Austria is the 12th richest country (as per the GDP per capita) and is well known for its economy and living standards.

It can be a great country to visit but selecting Austria as permanent residence might be somewhat uncomfortable. Given below are the tax rates that are imposed by the Austrian government upon its people. 

Corporate Tax Income Tax with the lowest marginal rate Income Tax with the highest marginal rate Value-added Tax
25% 0% 55% 20% (standard rate) or 13%, 10% (tourism services and basic goods)

11. The Netherlands:

The Netherlands has a special part in the European economy and is a well-developed country. It is also one of the leading members of the European Union.

It also has the 17th largest economy in the world. The tax rate for the citizens of the Netherlands is can be as high as 52%.

The types of taxes that are imposed upon the citizens of the Netherlands by its government are Income Tax, Municipal Tax, Water Tax, Road Tax, Parking Tax, Boating Tax, Waste Collection Tax, etc.

The general taxes that are applicable to the citizens of the Netherlands are as follows.

Corporate Tax Income Tax with the lowest marginal rate Income Tax with the highest marginal rate Value-added Tax
25%, 20% (highest and lowest marginal limits) 36.55% 52% (including 12% social security tax) 23% (standard rate) or 13.5% and 9% (reduced rates)

12. Ireland 

Ireland is also well-known for its financial sustainability within a short time span after the crisis that took place in the year 2008.

Although the highest tax rate of Ireland (which is 52%) is not among the highest tax rates imposed in Europe, it is substantially a higher tax rate when compared to other countries of the world. Income taxes are collected for various types of properties, gains, earnings, etc.

The brief tax structure of the tax rates applicable to the people living within Ireland is as follows.

Corporate Tax Income Tax with the lowest marginal rate Income Tax with the highest marginal rate Value-added Tax
12.5% 20% 52% 20% (standard rate) or 13%, 10% (tourism services and basic goods)

13. Israel

Israel is one of the famous countries in the world and is well-known for many things and the taxation there is one among them. With a population of about 8.5 million, Israel has the most number of startup companies after the USA.

Israel has an income tax, capital gains tax, VAT, land appreciation tax, etc. Israel also incentivized the taxes for the new immigrants. 

There are no Value-added Tax and GST on certain selected goods and services such as Fruits, Vegetables, public transport, etc. Given below are the general taxes that are applicable to the people living in Israel.

Corporate Tax Income Tax with the lowest marginal rate Income Tax with the highest marginal rate Value-added Tax
23% 11.5% 50% 17%

14. Cuba

Cuba is an Island located in the Caribbean mixed with African and Spanish cultures. Although it is considered to have a substantially higher crime rate, Cuba is good for tourists and known for its friendly natured people, Cigars, and Cocktails. The tax rates of Cuba are 50% and higher compared to many other countries of the world. 

The types of taxes that are imposed by the government in Cuba are income tax, corporate tax, VAT, etc. the tax rates imposed on the general public are given as follows.

Corporate Tax Income Tax with the lowest marginal rate Income Tax with the highest marginal rate Value-added Tax
30% 15% 50% 20%  (lowest rates can be as low as 2%)

15.Senegal

Senegal (also known as the Republic of Senegal) is a country located in West Africa. Although Senegal has been growing economically and is stable in terms of aspects such as the economy, it is still considered as an underdeveloped country. It is estimated that about 40% or more population comes under the category of below poverty line. 

Income tax in Senegal can be as much as 50% which is a significantly higher amount of tax for a country of its status. The tax system in Senegal is considered to be of the types Proportional Tax system and Progressive Tax system. The general tax rates imposed on individuals are as follows.

Corporate Tax Income Tax with the lowest marginal rate Income Tax with the highest marginal rate Value-added Tax
25% 0% 50% 20%

16. San Marino

San Marino is considered to be one of the smallest countries in the world. It is also considered to be one of the richest countries in the world and the tax rates can go up to as high as 50% for the residents living within the country. It is considered to be a tax haven for the wealthy people of Italy and Italians often prefer to deposit huge amounts of money within the San Marino Banks.

The types of taxes applicable to the citizens in the country of San Marino are taxes on dividends, income tax, corporate tax, VAT, royalty tax, etc.  The imported goods have a VAT of 17%. The general taxes for the people of San Marino are as follows.

Corporate Tax Income Tax with the lowest marginal rate Income Tax with the highest marginal rate Value-added Tax
17% 12% 50% 0%

17. France

France is considered to be Europe’s third most populous country and is ahead of both Germany and the UK in the Fortune Global 500 standing at the 4th place. 

France is said to tax its people with a tax rate of 50% and there have been rumors that this country is going to tax 75% for people who are earning more than 1 million Euros. Most of the citizens of France (approx. 30% of the population) acquire Monaco citizenship due to this reason as Monaco does not imply income tax upon its citizens. 

Visiting France and exploring all the tourist spots can be very enjoyable for people but taxation is considered to be heavy as it is around 50%. Here are the general tax rates applicable to the people of France.

Corporate Tax Income Tax with the lowest marginal rate Income Tax with the highest marginal rate Value-added Tax
15%, 28%, and 31% (from the lowest to highest marginal rates) 0% 45% (additional 4% tax on incomes above 500,000 euros) 20%

18.Italy

The tax rate of Italy is 48% and the types of taxes that are levied upon the people by the government are income tax, corporate tax, VAT, excise tax, etc. Given below are the tax rates applicable in Italy.

Corporate Tax Income Tax with the lowest marginal rate Income Tax with the highest marginal rate Value-added Tax
27.9% 23% 48.8% 22%

19. Greece

Known to be having one of the ancient civilizations in the world, Greece stands next in our list with a tax rate of around 48%. Greece is the 15th largest economy among the countries of the European Union. It has considerably higher taxes when compared to other countries such as Georgia and therefore considered to be a Tax Hazard. 

The types of taxes applicable to the citizens of Greece are income tax, social security tax, corporate tax, capital gains tax, VAT, inheritance tax, property tax, etc. The following table shows the general tax rates applicable to the citizens of Greece.

Corporate Tax Income Tax with the lowest marginal rate Income Tax with the highest marginal rate Value-added Tax
28% 22% 48% 24%

20. Germany

The tax rate in Germany can be as high as 47.5%. Germany is among the most populous countries in Europe. Berlin is considered to be the Home for startup companies and capital-funded firms among the countries of the European Union.

Worldwide earned income or income earned within the country of Germany is subjected to German Tax. Types of taxes applicable in Germany are VAT, inheritance taxes, capital gains taxes, motor vehicle taxes, etc. the general taxes applicable in Germany are as follows.

Corporate Tax Income Tax with the lowest marginal rate Income Tax with the highest marginal rate Value-added Tax
29.65% 14% 47.475% 19%

Some other mentions:

It could be argued that the US and UK should be on this list, due to the high indirect/stealth taxes in the UK, and combined federal and state taxes in most parts of the US.

We could have also mentioned almost all of the Nordic countries.

Different types of tax and taxation systems:

Taxation is generally the charges that are imposed upon a person by the taxing authority of the respective government where the person resides. The money that is collected with the help of taxation is known as ‘Tax’

The general purpose of taxation is to create money for the activities and expenditures of the government.

Generally, Taxes are of three types, which are ‘Progressive Taxes’, ‘Regressive Taxes’, and ‘Proportional and flat Taxes’. Regardless of these taxes, there are some other types of taxes paid people in their day to day life.

‘Progressive Taxes’ – Progressive taxes are usually related to Income Taxes. Progressive Taxes are based on the capacity of the taxpayer. For example, a lower tax rate is imposed upon people who earn a lower income whereas people who earn a higher amount of income are subjected to a higher tax rate.

This is also applicable to the wealth of a person as well, which means, the tax rate and the tax liability eventually increase when an increase occurs in the person’s wealth. This generally imposes a tax on richer people more than poor or middle-class people as rich people can afford to pay a high amount of taxes.

An example of the progressive tax is the ‘United States Federal Income Tax’. Based on the Marginal Tax Rates, the US Federal Income Tax charges a substantially higher amount of tax to the people who earn a higher amount of income while charging lower taxes to the people who earn a lower income. 

These tax rates are generally imposed on the basis of intervals of the taxable income proposed. As a person earns more income than they usually do, they become part of a new threshold where the tax increases. 

It was estimated that an average of up to 44% of the citizens of the United States wasn’t required to pay their taxes as their income is lower than the lowest interval where the taxation starts for the individuals. 

Another example of progressive taxes is the ‘Estates Tax’. The starting threshold for the estates’ tax starts from estates priced at $11.4 or more and increases with an increase in the size/price of the estate. This the threshold based on the 2019 federal estate tax rules and any property/estate whose value is lesser than the amount mentioned above is not liable for the Federal Estates Taxes. 

The threshold rate varies depending on the state/country where the individual resides. 

‘Regressive Taxes’ – This type of taxation is considered to have a higher impact on the people who earn lower income when compared to people who earn a substantially higher income. In this type of Tax, the government creates a tax rate which is a percentage of the original price that the person wishes to buy or own. Regardless of the income that a person earns, the regressive taxes can be the same for everyone and hence affect the low-income earners more than they affect the high-income earners.

Real Estate Property Taxes, Sales Taxes, and Excise Taxes are included in the Regressive Taxes. These are applicable to products such as gasoline, fares, goods, consumer products, etc. 

Property Taxes are generally imposed on properties owned by an individual and Excise Taxes are imposed on the people for a product or service they pay for.

There is also a sub-category known as ‘Sin Taxes’ which come under the Excise Taxes. These are the taxes imposed on products, services, and activities that are considered to be unhealthy for the people. Examples for the Sin Taxes are Cigarettes, Alcohol, Coffee, Carbonated Drinks, Drugs, Fast Foods, Gambling, etc.

There is also another type of Tax which is generally considered to come under the Regressive Taxes, known as the ‘Social Security Tax’. The Social Security Tax is a type of tax that is applicable for the people whose wages are above $137,701 and for employers for each of their employees. It is about 6.2% of the total amount of the earnings which equals or exceeds $137,701and the employers have to pay 6.2% for their employees. In the case of Self-employed individuals, both payments (adding up to 12.4%) is paid by the individuals. 

By taking a closer look at the details mentioned above, we can understand that the Regressive Taxes become a burden for the people with lower income because of its flat-rate as people who are able to earn higher income can be easily pay off these taxes.

‘Proportional Taxes’ – Under the Proportional Tax system, the tax rates are known to be flat rates that are equal for everyone regardless of the income or wealth of the respective individual. The main objective of this type of tax system is to create equality among the average tax rates applicable and the marginal tax rates. 

Nine states of the US are following the Proportional Tax system as of 2019. They are ‘Colorado’, ‘Illinois’, ‘Indiana’, ‘Kentucky’, ‘Massachusetts’, ‘Michigan’, ‘Pennsylvania’, ‘Utah’, and ‘North Carolina’

Taxes such as ‘Per capita taxes’, ‘gross receipts’, ‘occupational taxes’, etc. usually come under the Proportional Taxes. 

The proportional Tax system is said to motivate the people to earn higher income as there aren’t any penalties in the taxes for people who have a substantially higher amount of income. This also thrives to create a good economy as more money will be invested by businesses due to flat tax rates.

Social Security Tax is also considered to be a Proportional tax as it has an equal rate for everyone up to the wage base. 

For example, if a country having a flat income tax rate of 5%, then the people have to pay 5% of their taxable income which is considered to be a proportion of their income. Then, it comes under the proportional tax.

The Types of Taxes mentioned above are the three major types of taxes systems. Some other types of taxes that are imposed upon people in their daily life are as follows: 

  • ‘Federal Income Tax’ – Income Tax is the type of tax that is based upon the features such as Income, Wages or Earnings of the respective individual. Generally, the income tax is collected from the paycheck of an individual annually but in case of a self-employed person or a freelancer, the taxes should be paid on a quarterly basis.
    Basically, any individual is required to pay the amount that needs to be paid and for the people who overpay, receive a tax refund. 
  • ‘State and Local Income Taxes’ – Just like the federal income tax, many states also have an income tax. For example, if you are a person who is residing in the US, you would have to pay the state income tax unless you are from a selected list of seven states (‘Alaska’, ‘Florida’, ‘Nevada’, ‘South Dakota’, ‘Texas’, ‘Washington’, and ‘Wyoming’).
    Tennessee and New Hampshire do not impose any regular income tax but they have taxes applicable for the income that has been earned from interest and dividends.
    Nine states in the US are considered to have taxes based on the flat tax rate, they are ‘Colorado’, ‘Illinois’, ‘Indiana’, ‘Kentucky’, ‘Massachusetts’, ‘Michigan’, ‘North Carolina’, ‘Pennsylvania’ and ‘Utah’.
    In some cases, cities and the local governments also collect taxes from the people such as ‘Kansas City’ and ‘St. Louis’ in Missouri, Counties in Maryland, cities in the Portland area of Oregon, etc.
  • ‘Corporate Tax’ – Corporate Tax is the type of tax that is imposed upon the companies/corporations or legal entities on the basis of their income/profits.
    it is also called as a Corporation Tax or Company Tax. Corporate Taxes are generally imposed on a national level, but some similar taxes are applicable at the state and local levels too.
  • ‘FICA and other payroll Taxes’ – These taxes are generally removed from the salary by the employer and paid to the respective government agency. Self-employed people and freelancers have to pay these on a quarterly basis.
    FICA Taxes are the Federal Insurance Contribution Act taxes that fund the Social Security and Medicare of a person. People are generally required to pay 6.2% of their income as a Social Security Tax and 1.45% for Medicare. The employer is also required to pay the same amount for each employee.
    Additional Medicare Surtax is also applicable for people who earn more than $200,000 as single filers and more than $250,000 for joint filers.
  • ‘Self-employment Taxes’ – Self-employed individuals are required to pay the income and payroll taxes which are equal to that of the normal people. But they have to pay the Self-employment Tax instead of the FICA Tax.
    Generally, the self-employment tax for each person is around 15.3% of their income, where 12.4% is the Social Security and 2.9% is the Medicare amount.
    People who file their taxes annually are able to deduct 50% of their self-employment taxes.
  • ‘Capital Gains Tax’ – People who sell their assets are subjected to the Capital Gains Tax on the basis of their net gains. Investments, Real Estate, etc. are generally considered to be Common Assets. Taxes are also applicable if a person sells valuable things (like jewelry, antiques, stamp collections, etc.)
    The Capital Gains taxes are based on the amount of the time that the assets have been owned by the individual. Taxes can be less for the long-term capital gains taxes when compared to the regular tax rates for the assets which have been in hold for more than a year.
    The states which collect income tax from people also collect capital gains taxes.
  • ‘Estate Taxes’ – The Money or Assets that have been passed on after the death of a certain individual are known as Estate Taxes. Money in the form of cash, investments, real estate, and any other valuable assets come under this category.
    Estates whose value increases a certain threshold are subjected to tax. For example, the exemption of the Federal Estate Tax for 2020 is $11.58 in the United States. The Value increases based on the increase in inflation every year.
    Assets of many categories are considered to be valued for the Estate Tax but there is an exception for benefits that have been gained from a Life Insurance Policy.
  • ‘Inheritance Taxes’ – Just like the Estate Taxes, Inheritance Taxes are also applied upon the assets that have been passed on after the death of a certain person.
    It depends upon the amount of money that has been inherited by the person and their relationship with the dead person. In the United States, only six states collect the Inheritance Tax. 
  • ‘Wealth Tax’ – This is the type of taxation that is applicable upon the entire wealth (net worth) of a respective individual. Generally, the net worth of a person includes income, properties, personal savings, real estate, jewelry, antiques, and other valuable assets.
    People living in the United States are not subjected to the Wealth Tax. 
  • ‘Property Tax’ – When an individual buys a property such as a house, they are subjected to a Property Tax along with the Mortgage and the Homeowners Insurance. This type of tax is considered as an Ad Valorem Tax and based upon the value of the property owned by the person.
    Some places collect the property tax not based on the entire value of the property. The locality of the property also influences the value of the property tax.
  • ‘Sales tax’ – Sales Tax is the type of tax that is applicable to the goods and services that are purchased by a customer. This might be different for different places. Some goods have lesser taxes than others.
    For example, there might be a 2% tax on the groceries but the tax for the other goods can be 4%. Sales Tax is a Consumption Tax and Ad Valorem Tax, the value of the tax is based on the value of the product purchased.
  • ‘Value-added Tax’ – The Value-added Tax (VAT) is also similar to the Sales Tax. The major difference between the Sales Tax and the Value-added Tax is Sales Tax is generated on the final price whereas the Value-added Tax is applied on different stages of the process of manufacturing the product.
    The Maximum Retail Price labeled on a product usually consists of the VAT. 

What are the advantages of changing residency for a few years?

The article below explores the issue in more depth, but having a second residency can be a legal way to reduce your taxes from 50%+ to 1% or less for a few years or longer.

Further reading

For those interested in moving to a lower tax country, which options exist?

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