Tax-to-GDP Ratio

Tax-to-GDP Ratio

The tax-to-GDP ratio is used to determine how well a nation's government directs its economic resources.

Table of contents


The tax-to-GDP ratio is a metric that measures the size of a country's tax revenue in comparison to its Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Tax to GDP Ratio - Indian Economy Notes
  • It is expressed as a percentage.
  • The tax-to-GDP ratio measures the size of a country's tax revenue compared to its GDP.

What does the ratio indicate?

  • The higher the tax-to-GDP ratio, the better the country's financial position.
  • A greater tax-to-GDP ratio indicates that the government can cast a wider fiscal net.
    • It helps a government become less reliant on borrowing.
Essentially, it tells us how much of the country’s overall economic output is collected in the form of taxes.

For example, if a country has a GDP of $100 billion and collects taxes worth $10 billion, the tax-to-GDP ratio would be 10%. This ratio is an indicator of the tax burden on an economy and reflects the government's capacity to fund its operations through tax revenues.

A research paper by NACIN (National Academy of Customs, Indirect Taxes and Narcotics) observed that –

    • Countries significantly increase the overall level of taxation (as a share of GDP) as they become richer.
    • This is in line with Wagner‘s law, which states that the size of the government — proxied by the tax (and expenditure) share to GDP — rises as the associated country‘s income level also rises.

Government's Source of Income

Interim Budget 2024

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Factors that affect the tax-to-GDP ratio

  1. Economic Policies: Tax rates, exemptions, deductions, and incentives can influence the total tax collected.
  2. Economic Growth: Higher economic growth can lead to higher incomes and profits, potentially increasing tax revenue.
  3. Tax Administration: Efficiency in tax collection and combating tax evasion directly impact the ratio
  4. Sectoral Composition: Economies reliant on high-tax sectors, like services, may have higher ratios than those reliant on low-tax sectors, like agriculture.
  5. Informal Economy: Larger informal sectors often lead to lower tax collection since many transactions are not recorded or taxed.


The tax-to-GDP ratio can affect various aspects of an economy:

  1. Public Services: Higher ratios may enable governments to invest more in public services and infrastructure.
  2. Fiscal Health: A healthy ratio suggests a government is more capable of funding its obligations without excessive borrowing.
  3. Income Distribution: Progressive tax systems, which can lead to a higher tax-to-GDP ratio, may contribute to more equitable income distribution if the tax revenue is used for social welfare programs.
  4. Investment: High tax-to-GDP ratios, if resulting from high tax rates, may discourage investment. Conversely, a moderate ratio with stable tax policies might attract investment.


Understanding the tax-to-GDP ratio is crucial as it encompasses fiscal policy, economic health, and administrative efficiency, all of which are key areas in public administration and policy-making.