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La frontera tributaria: ¿Tienen los países de América Latina capacidad para recaudar más?

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Antes de explicar qué es la frontera tributaria y cómo sus límites nos afectan, recordemos en donde estamos. Con la caída en los precios de las materias primas y el contexto internacional endeble, la mayor parte de los países de América Latina (AL) necesita un programa de consolidación fiscal que permita reducir su déficit y disminuir la deuda tratando de minimizar los efectos negativos sobre el crecimiento.

La composición del programa de consolidación fiscal depende de varios factores, incluyendo su capacidad para recaudar más y el nivel y la eficiencia de su gasto público. Vamos a hablar ahora del primero de estos factores: cuánto pueden los países de AL aumentar la recaudación. Esto se logra básicamente a través de la política tributaria (por ejemplo reduciendo exenciones) o mejorando su administración tributaria.

El nivel de recaudación de los países de América Latina difiere notablemente (ver gráfico) y con ello los recursos disponibles para financiar políticas públicas e incrementar el bienestar de sus habitantes. Sin embargo, dicho nivel dice poco acerca de su capacidad para recaudar: el nivel de recaudación de un país puede ser comparativamente bajo y, sin embargo, su capacidad para aumentar la recaudación ser nula (por ejemplo, porque su PIB es muy bajo).

Para conocer la capacidad tributaria de los países, nuestro estudio permite estimar que tan cerca o lejos un país está del nivel máximo de recaudación que puede obtener. Esto es lo que llamamos, de hecho, frontera tributaria. Para ello se consideran una serie de factores de los cuales dicho nivel máximo depende (entre otros, del PIB per cápita; del nivel de educación de la población, del de corrupción, o de la estructura económica). A su vez, el esfuerzo tributario es el cociente entre la recaudación efectiva y el máximo de recaudación que es posible obtener. El modelo permite también neutralizar el efecto de los recursos naturales (en países como Bolivia o México que disponen de recursos significativos de este sector).

Los países de América Latina están alejados en un 42% de su frontera o máximo nivel de recaudación que pueden alcanzar. Esto contrasta con el esfuerzo tributario de la OECD 37% mayor que el de América Latina y distante sólo en un 21% de su frontera.

Fuente: Estimado en base a Análisis Estocástico de Frontera con metodología descripta en Fenochietto y Pessino (2013), IMF, Working Paper 13/244

Fuente: Estimado en base a Análisis Estocástico de Frontera con metodología descripta en Fenochietto y Pessino (2013), IMF, Working Paper 13/244

Sin embargo, el esfuerzo tributario promedio no muestra la gran heterogeneidad entre los países de la región. Las diferencias en el esfuerzo pueden deberse a elección pública (como tener bajas tasas impositivas o un elevado nivel de exenciones impositivas) o a ineficiencia para recaudar. Es más, un bajo esfuerzo no implica ser ineficiente con el gasto (varios países de Asia se han destacado por su bajo esfuerzo tributario y su relativa eficiencia con el gasto). Asimismo, un alto esfuerzo tributario no necesariamente implica eficiencia (el alto esfuerzo puede deberse a impuestos en cascada o ineficientes). Habrá que analizar cada país en detalle para saber qué factor pesa en mayor medida.

Conocer cuán lejos o cerca un país está de su máximo nivel de recaudación es de suma utilidad. Países que están cerca del máximo nivel posible de recaudación y donde el sistema tributario puede distorsionar los incentivos, un aumento de las tasas impositivas probablemente sería perjudicial para la inversión y la competitividad. En este caso se debe contemplar opciones como la mejora en la administración tributaria, o la disminución de los gastos ineficientes. En la categoría de esfuerzos tributarios altos se incluyen países como Brasil, Bolivia, y Uruguay.

Los países que están lejos de su capacidad tributaria y necesitan recursos para su consolidación fiscal o para incrementar el bienestar de sus habitantes de bajos recursos, podrán si así lo desean aumentar la recaudación, ya sea con medidas de política tributaria (i.e. eliminando exenciones o aumentando tasas) o de administración (mejorando el control y disminuyendo la evasión). En esta categoría de países, de esfuerzo tributario bajo, se encuentran países como El Salvador, Panamá, República Dominicana, Guatemala y México.

El resto de los países estudiados tiene un esfuerzo tributario cerca del promedio de AL, por lo que se encuentran en una situación que pueden recurrir tanto a medidas de política y administración tributaria como de mejora en la eficiencia del gasto para su consolidación fiscal.

¿Quieres saber más? Descarga nuestra publicación “Recaudar no basta


Esta columna fue originalmente publicada en el Blog Recaudando Bienestar del Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo BID.

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