What country has the highest income tax rate in the world?

Question pretty self explanitory. Also as an aside, and possibly a thread of its own, do countries with socialized medicine also have the highest tax rates?

Not sure about which one country, but here’s some fairly high ones: Are U.S. taxes low compared to the rest of the world? The table in that article will show you some countries with fairly high tax rates, I’m not sure that there’s a single winner.

Note that there are lots of complexities. It’s not a “self-explanatory” question. Factors that come into play:

  • We’re talking about the top marginal tax rate. Most tax systems are graded, so that you get a formula like “10% on income above $15,000 and up to $30,000, and 15% on income above $30,000 and up to $50,000, and…” Top marginal rates would be the highest rate charged. Note that, in the U.S., that top rate (39.9% as of 2000) doesn’t come into play until over $288,000 income… while in the U.K., a similar top marginal rate (40%) hits you at about $43,000 income.

  • Note that income tax is not the only tax. In many countries, like in the U.S., Canada, China, Germany, there is federal income tax but there are also state/provincial income tax. In addition to income taxes, there are sales taxes, property taxes, and social security taxes, just to name the most common.

Generally speaking, yes, the countries with the highest level of social services (like socialized medicine) tend to have high tax rates. Taxes (in theory) are used for things like defense, social services, and infrastructure (roads, etc.) Obviously, a socialized medicine is fairly costly (although the costs of the Canadian helath care system are much lower than, let’s say, the cost of the U.S. military.)

The reverse does not hold true: just because a country has high tax rates, doesn’t mean it provides lots of social services. In most of tThe oil-rich countries, for instance, but bribery and corruption rule the day, and high taxes line the pockets of the politicans and ruling families rather than provide infrastructure or social services.

Denmark is the country usually credited with having the highest total taxation in the world. Over 50% of the average income is paid in taxes (income tax + sales tax etc). Sweden is in a strong second place.

Having lived in Sweden I can vouch for the taxation level being stifling. It kills peoples initiative as working doesn’t pay. The socialized medicine also doesn’t work.

Sorry, no cites. The info came from newspapers.


At the other end of the scale is Brunei where they pay no taxes.

The UK, which has free healthcare for all courtesy of the National Health Service, has an overall tax rate comparable to most US states.

Well in a way any communist counrty has the highest since they (the gov’t) own everything and redistribite it.

I think the best measure of the level of taxation is the percentage of GDP taken by the government in taxes. This does not include just income tax, as requested in the OP, but all taxes. See here for a table.

The highest taxation is in Sweden and Denmark, with 52% and 51% respectively. The lowest are USA (29%), Japan (28%), Korea (24%) and Mexico (17%). All figures are from 1999.

Note that the table includes only developed and relatively developed countries.

As for the effect of socialized medicine, it is difficult to say as almost all developed countries have some form of socialized medicine. So, take Japan at 28% taxation and Sweden at 52%, and you cannot draw any conclusions.

It is certainly possible, though, that for a fairer comparison across countries, you should add the cost of health care to the American figures. I recently saw separate articles that said that the average US person spends $5,400 per year on healthcare (I was totally staggered by this and expected a thread or two to appear on SDMB, but if they did, I missed them) and average GDP per person is $36,500. That would suggest adding 14.8% to the US figures. Now, that is not quite fair as in socialized medicine countries you still end up paying something e.g. the UK has a prescription co-pay. And people can and do still pay for private medicine. And the US tax figures will also include some tax dollars that get spent on public health, so to add 14.8% to the 29% tax would be double counting.

I would say that the cost of taxes plus healthcare in the US add up to about 40% of GDP, which puts the US in the middle of the European countries in terms of overall burden.

No income tax here.


wasn’t the marginal tax rate in the UK something like 90% for very high earners in the 1970’s, which is why there was so many tax exiles, Perhaps a UK doper with a better memory can enlighten me

zwede writes:

> The socialized medicine also doesn’t work.

In what sense is it true that it doesn’t work? According to the following website, the average life expectancy in Sweden is 77.1 years, while in the U.S. it is 75.0 years:


In the only sense that I can make of a health care system working, the Swedish one is working better than the American one, since it’s keeping people alive longer.

Well, since Sweden is a very homogeneous country, genetics may play a role. How does the life expectancy of Swedes in the US compare to Sweden?

That doesn’t answer my question. zwede, in what sense do you mean that the Swedish health care system doesn’t work?

A statistical fallacy. Longevity is affected by numerous factors besides healthcare alone, including social differences, diet, crime, and so on.

I know nothing about Swedish healthcare, just making a point.

O.K., but that still doesn’t answer my question. zwede was the one making the claim that the Swedish health care system didn’t work. What does he mean by that? It would probably be best to wait until zwede answers the question. I don’t see how anyone else’s replies are relevant to understanding what zwede meant.

Regarding my opinion that Swedish healthcare has failed:

First some background. I was born in Sweden and lived there until the age of 25, when I moved to the US (Texas). I’m now 32.

Swedish healthcare used to be pretty good. After WW2 Sweden was one of the few European countries that had not suffered war damage. Money was abundant during the 50’s and 60’s. Starting in the 70’s and to this day Swedish economy has gone downhill.

There are now several issues with the healthcare system:

1… Long waits. The wait to see a doctor for non-emergency is at best several weeks, at worst over a year. I’m not talking about a specialist, but ANY doctor.

2… Lack of responsibility. Hospitals and doctors are not responsible for anything. If someone dies due to malpractice the law does not allow any punishment. The doctor can not loose his/her license. The most severe punishment is a written warning. The warnings are confidential. Names cannot be published.

3… Lack of resources. There is a large lack of funds for medical equipment. Small town have no hospitals due to costs. Rural areas are commonly 2-3 hours by car to the nearest hospital. Where there are hospitals, the capacity is lacking. There are often patients in hallways due to lack of hospital rooms.

4… Lack of doctors and nurses. Due to the government owned hospitals, doctors and nurses are paid very little. I remember reading that the average pay for a nurse is around $20k a year. If you go to a hospital with an ailment, you will NOT be allowed to see a doctor. First step is always a nurses aid (not even a trained nurse). If the nurses aid thinks there really is something wrong with you she will refer you to a doctor which is atleast several weeks wait, but usually months. There are many cases where the aids have sent patients home with painkillers and never realized they had broken bones or worse, cancer.

Waiting 20-30 hours in the ER with a broken bone is not unusual. The Swedish papers often run series of articles on the sad state of the healthcare system, but of course nothing ever changes.

I have nothing but good things to say about the healthcare system here in the US. Granted my experiences are limited, but I have had surgery here (hernia), and an ER visit due to a severe allergic reaction. Both times I got to see doctors quickly who were friendly, professional and fixed me right up.

I’m sure I would have eventually received treatment had I been in Sweden for the above, but I know the hernia operation would have entailed atleast a 6 month wait. Here in the US I was through the operation 2 weeks after I first saw the doctor.

In my opinion socialized healthcare does not, has never, and will never work.


<< Granted my experiences are limited, but I have had surgery here (hernia), and an ER visit due to a severe allergic reaction. Both times I got to see doctors quickly who were friendly, professional and fixed me right up. >>

That’s because you had health insurance and could pay. You would have a very different experience in the U.S. if you didn’t have private (or employer-provided) health insurance.

Yup. That’ll be us.

Stick to what you’re good at, seems to have been the motto of every governments since around 1962 or thereabouts. Unfortunately what they’ve been good has mainly been raising taxes; and stick to it they have most diligently.

Besides a gruelling income tax, we also have the pleasure of paying 25% vat on just about everything. And on top of that environment (green) tax on a whole slate of things like electricity, gasoline (1$ / litre now), etc. luxury tax on a whole bunch of other things like perfume and whiskey etc. and special tax on much of everything else, especially severe is the car tax which amounts to three times the car’s originally value. And besides all these lovely taxes we have lots of other taxes as well, like property tax. All in all about 60%-80% (depending on how you calculate it) of all money goes right back into the state coffers.

But then according to this “Tax Misery Guide” France is way ahead – Bugger it! Guess we just have to try harder – we’ll be number one yet!

Now I have a question. What does an average private health insurance costs? (I’m still waiting for the “Ask the American” thread)

True. Not saying the US system is perfect, just that in my experience it is far ahead of the Swedish system.


I don’t know about average, but my company pays $600 per month (that would be “per month”. Twelve times a year) to cover a family. On top of that, you will still pay $25 per doctor visit, $10 or $20 per prescription, and $50 to visit the emergency room. These numbers exclude dental work, which is a whole other barrel of dollars.

Fine. But perhaps you’re aware that the issues you pointed at concerning the swedish healthcare system (waiting, lack of responsability, etc…) don’t necessarily exist in all countries. If I want to see a doctor, I’ll call mine and I’ll see him on the following day at worst, or else I can just calll another one who isn’t too busy. And for a very low cost (20 US , 40 US for a home call, which will be fully reimbursed by the social security except for a couple dollars of co-payment). And in case of malpractice, he certainly could lose his license. Maybe the swedish system is broken but it doesn’t mean socilized healthcare never works. Personnally, I’m very happy with the socialized healthcare system as it exists here…

Sure, I’ve to pay higher taxes for it, but it’s well worth it.