Working Paper
Taxation and income distribution in Myanmar

Application of a new computable general equilibrium (CGE) model

Despite major public finance reform efforts over the last decade, Myanmarese public finances continue to be characterized by relative weakness in revenue collection, budget execution, and long-term sustainability.

Myanmar is therefore in need of comprehensive public finance reform. Two top priorities of the Myanmar Sustainable Development Plan are to establish a fair and efficient tax system to increase government revenues, and to ensure effective public financial management.

In this paper, we analyse the scope for fiscal tax reform to finance future Myanmar Union budget deficits and lower the need for central bank financing.

Specifically, we employ a newly developed dynamically recursive computable general equilibrium model for Myanmar to analyse the economic efficiency and household income distribution impacts of employing four tax instruments, including the expansion of existing commercial taxes, customs duties, and corporate taxes, and the introduction of new secondary and tertiary education payroll taxes, to finance 2022–40 government budget deficits.

Our results demonstrate that eliminating Myanmarese government budget deficits could release savings for future capital accumulation and lead to net present value GDP gains, regardless of tax instrument, but also that real household welfare losses will be substantial and potentially persist throughout our 20-year horizon.

While the payroll and enterprise tax instruments are identified as efficient and progressive, they are likely to suffer from weak tax bases, implying that commodity-focused tax instruments, including sales taxes and progressive but less efficient import tariffs, will need to continue to form the core of any comprehensive tax reform in Myanmar.