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Countries with the Highest Tax

Name the countries that collect the most tax as a percentage of GDP.
According to the Heritage Foundation. Source
Includes federal, regional, and local government
Quiz by Quizmaster
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First submittedMay 13, 2014
Last updatedFebruary 28, 2019
Times taken47,510
Rating4.16
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%
Country
47.0
Lesotho
45.9
Denmark
45.3
France
44.2
Belgium
44.1
Sweden
44.1
Finland
42.9
Italy
%
Country
42.7
Austria
41.5
Cuba
39.4
Hungary
38.8
Netherlands
38.6
Greece
38.4
Serbia
38.0
Norway
%
Country
37.9
Croatia
37.6
Germany
37.1
Luxembourg
37.0
Bosnia and Herzegovina
37.0
Slovenia
36.4
Iceland
+10
level 80
May 28, 2014
Take that, Tea Party.
+11
level 68
Sep 11, 2016
Yeah, too bad those Tea Partyists kept us from being a wonderful utopia like Lesotho, Swaziland or Cuba.
+60
level 61
Sep 13, 2016
A masterful job cherry-picking the outliers among the world's most prosperous countries.
+21
level ∞
Feb 28, 2019
Here's some data based on my original research. Countries with higher tax rates tend to have both greater per-capita income (correlation +0.30) and higher life expectancy (correlation +0.46). However, this is simply a correlation. It does not mean that higher taxes cause those things, and is certainly not a necessary condition as countries like Singapore have extremely low taxes but extremely high income and life expectancy.
+4
level 68
Mar 4, 2019
@Quizmaster You're right, there certainly is a correlation. My speculation, however, would be that more developed states have more effective policing and thus are more able to collect taxes, as things like black markets become impractical. People confuse cause and effect, which is why it is important to point out counter-examples.
+12
level 71
Mar 7, 2019
Or conversely, CartoJuggernaut, countries that collect higher taxes are able to become more developed, so they have more money to spend on policing. Funny how the sword cuts both ways.
+1
level 72
May 28, 2014
was one below average...but got swaziland...go figure
+29
level 24
May 28, 2014
Native Austrian, living in the US. While healthcare in Europe isn't "free" as such, it is spectacularly cheap compared to my experiences here in the US. I pay for my own health insurance here, but it covers very little. If I wanted more coverage, my monthly contributions would get ridiculously high. High taxes - of course, who likes high taxes? But, on the other hand, who doesn't enjoy next to "free" universities and schools, affordable kindergartens and all of that? Living in the US (as much as I love some things over here) has certainly opened my eyes about the benefits of paying higher taxes and reaping the benefits of it.
+7
level 77
May 28, 2014
I work in Saudi Arabia and pay no taxes here. Healthcare is still comparatively cheap next to the U.S.
I've worked in the American healthcare system. My father was the budget director for the largest hospital network in Northern Virginia and the DC area for about 20 years. It's not as simple as anyone makes it out to be.
Americans usually demand the best of their healthcare services. They want the best available technology and state of the art procedures and the most skilled doctors, and often get them. But those things come with a price tag attached. In addition, the US is an extremely litigious place. Many things unfortunately are ruled by fear of lawsuits, which in the country can equal obscenely large amounts of money. Doctors and hospitals have to pay ridiculously high premiums for malpractice insurance. This cost gets passed on to consumers. A quality education in the US is expensive. You get the best university system in the world, but not cheaply.
+5
level 77
May 28, 2014
especially if you want to go to medical school which means 4 years in premed, 4 years in med school, maybe some extra years learning a specialization, an internship or residency where you'll make little to no money and then finally you'll be a doctor. Doctors in the US generally start out massively in debt. For those that enter private practice, this cost gets passed to the consumer. In large state-run or not for profit hospitals, many times there are rules against denying anybody care. In spite of the stories you might here, at the hospital I worked at for instance nobody was turned away. The hospital was flooded with illegal immigrants, poor migrant workers, indigent (homeless) and others who we knew could not or would not pay their bills. I was in registration and also in patient accounts. Even if we knew for a fact a patient was giving us a fake social security number and address we weren't allowed to say anything, again for fear of a lawsuit as it could be construed as care denial.
+5
level 77
May 28, 2014
The costs of caring for all of these patients without insurance who can't or won't pay their bills gets passed on to other patients who can pay. Finally there is the very convoluted and screwed up health insurance system which, if you have a good plan through a good employer, or if you have Medicare (government insurance for those that qualify), you'll probably be just fine but otherwise can be a big headache. The insurance companies are profit driven, so it can be a pain for hospitals to collect anything from them. They often negotiate special rates... the hospital wants those patients that the insurers have so they'll give them a discount, the insurers will want to sell insurance to big companies so those companies can negotiate discounts on premiums for themselves, but all these companies still want to make a profit so who gets stuck paying the full (inflated) price? Individuals without insurance who don't qualify for medicaid, medicare, etc, small employers, people with bad plans
+2
level 72
May 28, 2014
Girl, you tell them!!
+4
level 77
Sep 12, 2016
Many comments here deleted. I never said anything about leeches. I never said anything about Europe. You're being ridiculous as usual, gandalf. And the histrionics you launched into before (most of which were deleted already), were embarrassing. And what set you off? That *one* item in a long list of reasons I gave for American healthcare costs being high was that they are often at the vanguard of medical technique and technology and that this can be expensive. This is plainly self-evident. There are patients flown in to the United States from all over the world to benefit from advanced treatments and technology there. I never said anything about the quality of care in Europe. But you are so laughably insecure, or so hateful toward the United States, that if anyone says that something there is good you see red? Pitiful. Just pitiful.
+4
level 80
Sep 12, 2016
I would second that the litigious nature of our culture is a massive drain on the economy as a whole, and in particular it has driven worse behaviors throughout the healthcare sector. Companies are profit driven, but that's not the only factor.
+5
level 77
Sep 12, 2016
@joey, agreed. Americans' litigiousness is unlike anything anywhere else in the world. It has dragged the country down in a big way. Though some would argue that it's a positive thing as it encourages accountability; I'm starting to really dislike this word accountability. You can definitely take it way too far. See the SJW movement...
+2
level 77
Apr 15, 2019
I'm starting to think that my views on American litigiousness were shaped by growing up in the US in the 1980s when big corporations were pushing for "tort reform" to save themselves the cost of lawsuits. As part of this effort, they tried and largely succeeded to get Americans to view themselves as overly litigious. I'm not sure it's such a bad thing anymore, but maybe it can go too far in some instances, and it is unlike most other places I have been to. Anyway it's complicated like every other factor I listed above, but high malpractice insurance premiums are definitely a factor in high healthcare costs in the USA. One among many.
+3
level 76
Apr 15, 2019
All good comments, Kal. I would add a few more - nurses also have to pay malpractice insurance, on incomes that are much lower than physicians. Rural healthcare has nightmares of its own - we have problems attracting good doctors, and hospitals in rural areas need the same equipment as those in urban areas but with a much smaller population to use it. Rural hospitals compete for patients and will often buy expensive equipment which duplicates services, when the money could be used to improve services in a specialized area if they would agree to "split" specialties. Insurance companies are the real headaches. They now refuse to pay for anything that they can deem is the hospital's fault, such as hospital-acqured infections. People think those on Medicaid have a free ride for medical care, but many physicians refuse to accept Medicaid payments due to the extensive paperwork which results in much lower payments for services. As a result many poor people have to rely on the ER as their PCP
+3
level 76
Apr 15, 2019
ER's cannot usually turn people away, although they don't have to result in admission. That all leads to ridiculously higher costs for those who do pay. The opening of urgent care centers has helped, as they can offer general care at a lower cost. There's a reason so many in the US go to Canada and Mexico to fill their prescriptions - drug costs are insane here. I am now retired and on free Medicare Part A which only covers hospital stays. I pay over $130 per month for Medicare Part B which is required and deducted from my monthly SS check. I have medical issues so I pay $188 per month for a Medicare type F plan which covers all doctor visits and outpatient treatments, and $33 for a Part D type drug supplement. My husband pays Part B and D, but since he is in excellent health he doesn't need as much coverage and doesn't do Part F. Less coverage means copays & could mean financial catastrophe in the case of unexpected illness or emergency. Choosing retirement health plans is complicated
+2
level 68
May 28, 2014
Made a completely random guess at 2 seconds left with Lesotho... Bit of a fluke there.
+2
level 76
Apr 15, 2019
I had the same fluke - no idea how I pulled that one out.
+11
level 69
May 28, 2014
Keep in mind the source for this, the very right-wing Heritage Foundation. Zimbabwe as number one is especially ridiculous as the only real economy is a shadow economy which cannot be accurately assessed. And although no, I'm not a big fan of taxes, there is a strong correlation (always exceptions) with quality of life, especially maternal and child health care. Nordic countries especially make effective use of what they collect. (I wish we in the US could say the same.)
+3
level 61
Sep 13, 2016
Thank you for posting this out. An astute observation. I myself am a centrist, but it is definitely noteworthy that this information comes from a source with a demonstrably strong bias.
+2
level ∞
Feb 28, 2019
The data seems accurate, and if anything would seem to go against their anti-tax agenda as the "better" countries tend to have higher tax rates. I've seen other sources for this data on the internet and they are very poor, IMHO, often leaving out the impact of local and regional taxes. Credit where its due, the Heritage Foundation has compiled a very strong data source. But don't listen to me. The source is listed, you can check it out for yourself.
+2
level 80
Mar 19, 2019
What does "very right wing" even mean in this context? The data is the data. Total tax collections are a pretty straightforward measurement.
+3
level 57
Apr 15, 2019
It means that the organisation that collected and published the data was specifically set up as a "conservative think tank", was intended to support a political ideology further right than that of Richard Nixon, and has affiliations to the Republican Party (according to Wikipedia). It is possible that some of the decisions they made about how to measure the GDP and what to count as tax would have been intended to support a political agenda, but as @QM says that doesn't seem to be the case.
+1
level 83
Jun 20, 2014
Well, I guess I'll have to change my response the next time I'm faced with a tax increase and threaten to move to Zimbabwe...
+1
level 65
Oct 10, 2014
i cant believe zimbabwe..... is on here
+2
level 67
Nov 1, 2015
There is a high base-rate in Zimbabwe before which tax is zero or very small, whereas if you earn more money you come under the High Tax rate. This is to make the owners of land who are earning money on crops or animal tending pay up big time.
+5
level ∞
Jul 1, 2016
Zimbabwe is no longer on the list. While I'm sure the government of Zimbabwe would love to confiscate nearly 100% of the wealth of the country, it's likely that their incompetence prevents them from doing so.
+1
level 58
Jan 7, 2015
Funny thing is, I tried South Africa but not any of its neighboring countries...I could've done so much better.
+2
level 46
Jun 1, 2015
Why not switzerland ? Leaving this country, I can assure you that we have almost the highest taxes of the world.....
+7
level 33
Jul 24, 2016
Is that why your known internationally as a bit of a tax haven? ;0)
+6
level 60
Dec 24, 2016
The Swiss are probably like Australians - forever complaining that they have the highest taxes in the world. Obviously not true.
+5
level ∞
Feb 28, 2019
Switzerland is ranked #50.
+3
level 70
Apr 15, 2019
Quiz is not about rate of tax but percentage of GDP.
+1
level 67
Sep 10, 2015
For all the talk on this site (knowalls mostly), It is amusing to see all the countries not on this list supply the legal and illegal immigrants trying to get into the countries on this list ...... wonder why?
+4
level 77
Sep 11, 2016
The Nigerian guy I rented a room from in Stockholm (40 euros/night, because beds in hostel dorm rooms were 50+, which seemed cheap after Oslo) told me that his strategy was to get a Swedish girl pregnant and then stay at home doing nothing because the Swedish government will pay you just to make babies.
Though I don't think taking advantage of misguided social welfare programs is as much of a factor as opponents of immigration make it out to be, it probably is a factor in some places. The main reason is jobs. Overwhelmingly, people only change the place where they live when they can't make a good living one place and feel they can do better somewhere else. Healthcare, education, quality of life, culture, bike paths, climate, etc etc are not big motivating factors. It's about jobs and the economy. The only real exception is when people are fleeing a warzone.
+1
level 68
Apr 15, 2019
Taxes are collected from people who have income (or sometimes wealth). Immigrants from poor countries have no income (or wealth), so they have nothing to lose from moving to high-tax regimes. Tax revenue is spent, at least in part, on services for the poor, so immigrants have something to gain from moving to places that have more tax revenue to spend on them, and where their relative poverty will entitle them to larger share of the pie. It's really not at all counter-intuitive if you think about it for even one second.
+1
level 61
Apr 15, 2019
I've only lived in the US and UK, but neither allow recent immigrants to receive welfare/benefits. In fact, you have to prove you have the income to support yourself (or have someone who will support you) before you are allowed to settle. Of course, they receive the benefit of better infrastructure, emergency services, etc, and (in the UK, for a surcharge) healthcare. I imagine most countries are the same. Haven't most studies on the matter shown that immigrants pay more in taxes than they receive in services? Which makes sense, since the host countries don't have the cost of their schooling, healthcare, etc, as children.
+1
level 77
Apr 20, 2019
In the US it depends a lot on which state, which city, which benefits you're talking about, and what you mean by "recent immigrant"- are you talking about illegal or undocumented immigrants? Legal residents without citizenship? Because someone legally in the US that has obtained citizenship has access to all the same benefits and services as anyone else there's no distinction. And people in the first two categories can actually take advantage of a lot.

kitty is right that most recent immigrants to the US, including undocumented ones, work, pay taxes, and help support the system that they might take benefits from. Many of them bring children and enroll those children in public schools so... that part doesn't seem accurate to me. I used to work as a public school teacher working with those children.

So... they pay taxes, they pay into social security while not being eligible to receive anything back, in most places they can't take advantage of Medicaid and so on
+1
level 77
Apr 20, 2019
so they usually put more in to the system than they receive in direct paid out benefits, that much is true. However, they can enroll in public schools, they can make use of community healthy services, free clinics, emergency room services et cetera, they do benefit from many local, municipal, or state programs designed to help some people. But that's not a bad thing. These programs are not there to give people hand outs for free the programs exist to improve your community and your state. The long term benefits to the economy always outweighs the investment. Having a healthy, educated population benefits everyone, there's nothing to gain from keeping people impoverished, sick, or under educated, not if you want productive members of society able to contribute something. And the US, and most places, benefit greatly from having immigrants.
+2
level 58
Nov 1, 2015
I must have typed every Eastern European country there is, surprised that none of them came up. Then I saw I had only not typed Hungary, the only one that makes the list.
+4
level 40
Sep 11, 2016
I was going to put Lesotho, but thought "nah, its probably not one of them." Never second guess yourself kids.
+1
level 55
Apr 15, 2019
Totally me. I put in eSwatini and was like "Nah, all of them are from Europe. Can't be any other African one like Lesotho. pffffffttt".
+2
level 51
Sep 12, 2016
I guess this explains why Legos are so expensive....
+8
level 62
Dec 10, 2016
Most of the countries with high tax rates have low levels of social problems. Fancy that.
+1
level 68
Apr 15, 2019
Perhaps being rich makes it easier to avoid social problems? Do you think the trouble in, say, Sierra Leone, is that its tax rates are too low? That Singapore would finally eradicate its last social problem if it could just get its tax rates a bit higher?
+1
level 58
Apr 20, 2019
Could it be because they are more homogeneous places? Political correctness (see diversity) aside, is it probable/possible that the more homogeneous the society, the less trouble?
+1
level 40
Dec 24, 2016
Where would Vatican City rank on this list?
+1
level 61
Feb 1, 2019
Yea haha I tried Vatican too for the fun of it, curious where they d be
+1
level 78
Feb 28, 2019
Pretty sure most of their money comes through visitor donations/spending. From nationsencyclopedia.com: "There are no taxes, no restrictions on the import or export of funds, and no customs or excise duties payable in the Vatican City. Employees of the Vatican pay no income tax and no customs duty on gasoline or goods that they buy in the Vatican. Non-Italians enjoy allowances on their monthly salaries."
+2
level 71
Nov 30, 2017
Swaziland & Lesotho are such outliers. Does anyone know why their tax rate is so high?
+1
level 61
Feb 1, 2019
Well cuba, bosnia, slovenia and Hungary arent really the first candidates you think of either. Those and the ones you mentioned really stand out.
+6
level 73
Feb 28, 2019
Well, communism was/is very much into free healthcare and education, financed by taxes of course. And it wasn't something the post-communist states felt like abandoning.
+2
level 77
Apr 15, 2019
I guessed Cuba pretty quickly.
+3
level 72
Mar 1, 2019
I'm assuming it's a per capita tax burden and businesses pay a lot in Luxembourg, because that place funnels a lot of money.
+1
level 71
Mar 7, 2019
I was kind of surprised to see so many of the Balkans there. I guess they still haven't really recovered from their wars yet, and for some of them, still transitioning into the EU. Then again, the infrastructure and quality of life is noticeably improving in those countries; taxes sure help with that :-)
+2
level 68
Mar 12, 2019
Every government would love to give itself the largest possible budget to play with by charging the highest possible tax rates. Generally, only countries that are very comfortable for other reasons can get away with it. Put another way, taxes are high in France for the same reason that rents are high in New York--lots of people want to live there, and are willing to pay a premium to do so.
+2
level 61
Mar 13, 2019
I don't know why but I don't want to trust some of the countries on this list with the high level of their taxes
+2
level 61
Apr 15, 2019
I've just made a quiz on countries with the lowest tax, if anyone's interested: https://www.jetpunk.com/user-quizzes/142762/countries-with-the-lowest-tax
+1
level 60
Apr 15, 2019
I got all but Hungary and the Yugoslavian ones
+1
level 19
Apr 15, 2019
Who else look straight away to the comments because they had no idea what the heck any of them were?
+1
level 46
Apr 15, 2019
All the places that liberals love.
+1
level 56
Apr 16, 2019
Lesotho ???
+1
level 47
Jul 16, 2019
The answers are mostly European socialist countries. A factor most people don't appreciate is that Europe is largely stripped of resources and this has to affect their thinking. They don't have any significant petroleum reserves so they need to rely on the Middle East and are willing to look the other way when these countries treat their citizens poorly, promote terrorism and stick to customs that are natural for them but offensive to many Westerners. They are getting smarter by adapting renewable energy sources. If you haven't seen Europe, you don't realize they have to conserve or they'd not have anything left. The Americas, by contrast, have much greater reserves of raw materials and land and can afford, in many but not all ways, to have different policies. I've lived in Europe (Germany, UK, Iceland) and visited about 1/3 of the countries but I greatly prefer living in the USA for its much greater diversity, wealth of resources, friendliness of its people and diverse economy.
+2
level 50
Aug 13, 2019
Norway, the Netherlands, and the UK all produce a decent amount of oil, Norway especially so.