Estonia is usually considered to be one of the most tax-competitive countries – even ranking first on the Tax Foundation’s International Tax
Competitiveness Index for the last nine years. Estonia has a 20% top statutory corporate income tax rate that only applies to distributed profits; companies can thus reinvest their profits tax-free. Estonia is the sole country where earning profit in itself does not trigger an income tax liability; profits are only taxed when they are distributed to shareholders. Besides, no tax is due if this distributed profit originates from dividends received from a firm in another country. Estonia has a territorial tax system that exempts from domestic taxation all foreign profits earned by national firms, with few restrictions; it is considered as a tax haven due to its low-tax opportunities for non-resident businesses. Estonia supports free entrepreneurship and minimal bureaucracy; it has a very developed digital infrastructure, extended to foreign residents with the help of the e-Residency programme.
Estonia additionally has a proportional 20% tax that applies to all items of income derived by a resident taxpayer, except personal dividend income. There is no tax on securities owned by individuals, capital gains are only taxed when owners sell securities and earn profit. Further, property tax applies only to the value of land rather than the value of real property or capital, with the outcome that Estonia does not impose taxes on the transfer of real property (real estate, land improvements, machinery) from one person or firm to another. Regarding indirect taxes, the VAT rate in Estonia is 20% for most goods and services, even if there is also a reduced VAT rate of 9% for some goods: books for example. Together, all of these specific features mean the share of direct taxes is much smaller in Estonia than in the rest of the European Union.
What have been the consequences of this relative structure of fiscal resources for competitiveness and economic growth in Estonia?
A smaller relative share of direct taxes (like in Estonia) is generally correlated with higher economic growth. Indeed, the real GDP growth
rate has been quite always higher in Estonia than the EU average during the last decades. On top of that, Estonia has become the leader of the world in the number of unicorn companies, startups and amount of venture capital investments per capita.