Subnational Taxation in Large Emerging Countries
This paper reviews the evolution and current state of subnational taxation in five large emerging countries: Brazil, Russia, India, China, and Nigeria—BRIC plus one. As these case studies show, intergovernmental fiscal relations in any country are inevitably both path-dependent and context-sensitive. In India and Brazil, for example, subnational governments already have a significant degree of fiscal autonomy in being able to set some key tax rates. In both countries, however, substantial attention still must be paid to improving the general consumption taxes that are the main source of regional government revenues as well as the property taxes on which local governments mainly depend. Although Nigeria, like India and Brazil, is a federation, its fiscal system depends so heavily on oil revenues that almost all political attention has been focused on securing a bigger share of these revenues. Both China and Russia have made important changes in the direction of centralizing rather than decentralizing effective control over subnational taxes. In both countries, the key issue is the extent to which fiscal decentralization is to be accompanied by significant political decentralization. At present, in neither China nor Russia is it clear that the central authorities are willing to permit subnational governments much autonomy in this respect.