BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Nothing is certain in life except death and taxes. And the place you’re most likely to pay big taxes is northern Europe.
In its 2011 tax report released on Monday, Europe’s statistics agency identified Denmark as having the highest tax burden in the European Union, with income equivalent to 47.7 percent of the country’s annual output.
The next three spots were taken by Sweden, Belgium, France and Finland, all with tax takes of just above or just below 44 percent, the figures showed.
At the other end of the scale is east Europe, where several countries that were once Soviet satellites are now EU member states.
Lithuania collected just 26 percent of its economic output in taxes while others with receipts of less than 30 percent include Bulgaria, Latvia, Romania and Slovakia.
Ireland, which was bailed out by the EU in 2011, also has one of the lowest tax burdens at just under 29 percent, although a new property tax to be introduced later this year is likely to change that.
Zsolt Darvas, an economist at think tax Bruegel explained the divergences by way of the differing economic models and socio-political systems EU member states have adopted.
“Europe has different tax models, with countries like Ireland pursuing an Anglo-Saxon approach of low investment in public services and a low tax burden, while Scandinavia offers more public services for a higher tax,” he said.
While the tax burden may be high in northern Europe, the figures show the trend is downwards. Denmark’s tax take is down from 49.4 percent in 2000, while Sweden’s has dropped from 51.5 percent to 44.3 percent in the past 11 years.
The average across the EU has also fallen marginally over that time, with revenue dropping to 38.8 percent of GDP in 2011 from 40.4 percent in 2000.
Reporting By John O'Donnell; editing by Luke Baker