Paying Taxes Methodology

Figure 1 - What are the time, total tax rate and number of payments necessary for a local medium-size company to pay all taxes?

Doing Business records the taxes and mandatory contributions that a medium-size company must pay in a given year as well as the administrative burden of paying taxes and contributions (figure 1). The project was developed and implemented in cooperation with PwC (1). Taxes and contributions measured include the profit or corporate income tax, social contributions and labor taxes paid by the employer, property taxes, property transfer taxes, dividend tax, capital gains tax, financial transactions tax, waste collection taxes, vehicle and road taxes, and any other small taxes or fees.

The ranking of economies on the ease of paying taxes is determined by sorting their distance to frontier scores for paying taxes. These scores are the simple average of the distance to frontier scores for each of the component indicators (figure 2), with a threshold and a nonlinear transformation applied to one of the component indicators, the total tax rate (2). The threshold is defined as the total tax rate at the 15th percentile of the overall distribution of the total tax rate indicator for all years included in the analysis up to and including Doing Business 2015. The threshold is set at is 26.1%. All economies with a total tax rate below this threshold receive the same score as the economy at the threshold.

Figure 2 - Paying taxes: tax compliance for a local manufacturing company

The threshold is not based on any economic theory of an “optimal tax rate” that minimizes distortions or maximizes efficiency in an economy’s overall tax system. Instead, it is mainly empirical in nature, set at the lower end of the distribution of tax rates levied on medium-size enterprises in the manufacturing sector as observed through the paying taxes indicators. This reduces the bias in the total tax rate indicator toward economies that do not need to levy significant taxes on companies like the Doing Business standardized case study company because they raise public revenue in other ways—for example, through taxes on foreign companies, through taxes on sectors other than manufacturing or from natural resources (all of which are outside the scope of the methodology).

Doing Business measures all taxes and contributions that are government mandated (at any level—federal, state or local) and that apply to the standardized business and have an impact in its financial statements. In doing so, Doing Business goes beyond the traditional definition of a tax. As defined for the purposes of government national accounts, taxes include only compulsory, unrequited payments to general government. Doing Business departs from this definition because it measures imposed charges that affect business accounts, not government accounts. One main difference relates to labor contributions. The Doing Business measure includes government-mandated contributions paid by the employer to a requited private pension fund or workers’ insurance fund. It includes, for example, Australia’s compulsory superannuation guarantee and workers’ compensation insurance. For the purpose of calculating the total tax rate (defined below), only taxes borne are included. For example, value added taxes are generally excluded (provided that they are not irrecoverable) because they do not affect the accounting profits of the business—that is, they are not reflected in the income statement. They are, however, included for the purpose of the compliance measures (time and payments), as they add to the burden of complying with the tax system.

Doing Business uses a case scenario to measure the taxes and contributions paid by a standardized business and the complexity of an economy’s tax compliance system. This case scenario uses a set of financial statements and assumptions about transactions made over the course of the year. In each economy tax experts from a number of different firms (in many economies these include PwC) compute the taxes and mandatory contributions due in their jurisdiction based on the standardized case study facts. Information is also compiled on the frequency of filing and payments as well as the time taken to comply with tax laws in an economy. To make the data comparable across economies, several assumptions about the business and the taxes and contributions are used.

Assumptions about the business

The business:

  • Is a limited liability, taxable company. If there is more than one type of limited liability company in the economy, the limited liability form most common among domestic firms is chosen. The most common form is reported by incorporation lawyers or the statistical office.
  • Started operations on January 1, 2013. At that time the company purchased all the assets shown in its balance sheet and hired all its workers.
  • Operates in the economy’s largest business city. For 11 economies the data are also collected for the second largest business city.
  • Is 100% domestically owned and has five owners, all of whom are natural persons.
  • At the end of 2013, has a start-up capital of 102 times income per capita.
  • Performs general industrial or commercial activities. Specifically, it produces ceramic flowerpots and sells them at retail. It does not participate in foreign trade (no import or export) and does not handle products subject to a special tax regime, for example, liquor or tobacco.
  • At the beginning of 2014, owns two plots of land, one building, machinery, office equipment, computers and one truck and leases one truck.
  • Does not qualify for investment incentives or any benefits apart from those related to the age or size of the company.
  • Has 60 employees—4 managers, 8 assistants and 48 workers. All are nationals, and one manager is also an owner. The company pays for additional medical insurance for employees (not mandated by any law) as an additional benefit. In addition, in some economies reimbursable business travel and client entertainment expenses are considered fringe benefits. When applicable, it is assumed that the company pays the fringe benefit tax on this expense or that the benefit becomes taxable income for the employee. The case study assumes no additional salary for meals, transportation, education or others. Therefore, even when such benefits are frequent, they are not added to or removed from the taxable gross salaries to arrive at the labor tax or contribution calculation.
  • Has a turnover of 1,050 times income per capita.
  • Makes a loss in the first year of operation.
  • Has a gross margin (pretax) of 20% (that is, sales are 120% of the cost of goods sold).
  • Distributes 50% of its net profits as dividends to the owners at the end of the second year.
  • Sells one of its plots of land at a profit at the beginning of the second year.
  • Is subject to a series of detailed assumptions on expenses and transactions to further standardize the case. For example, the owner who is also a manager spends 10% of income per capita on traveling for the company (20% of this owner’s expenses are purely private, 20% are for entertaining customers, and 60% are for business travel). All financial statement variables are proportional to 2012 income per capita as of and including Doing Business 2014 (this is an update from Doing Business 2013 and previous years’ reports, where the variables were proportional to 2005 income per capita). For some economies a multiple of two or three times income per capita has been used to estimate the financial statement variables (3). The 2012 income per capita was not sufficient to bring the salaries of all the case study employees up to the minimum wage thresholds that exist in these economies.

Assumptions about the taxes and contributions

  • All the taxes and contributions recorded are those paid in the second year of operation (calendar year 2014). A tax or contribution is considered distinct if it has a different name or is collected by a different agency. Taxes and contributions with the same name and agency, but charged at different rates depending on the business, are counted as the same tax or contribution.
  • The number of times the company pays taxes and contributions in a year is the number of different taxes or contributions multiplied by the frequency of payment (or withholding) for each tax. The frequency of payment includes advance payments (or withholding) as well as regular payments (or withholding).

Tax payments

The tax payments indicator reflects the total number of taxes and contributions paid, the method of payment, the frequency of payment, the frequency of filing and the number of agencies involved for the standardized case study company during the second year of operation (table 1). It includes taxes withheld by the company, such as sales tax, value added tax and employee-borne labor taxes. These taxes are traditionally collected by the company from the consumer or employee on behalf of the tax agencies. Although they do not affect the income statements of the company, they add to the administrative burden of complying with the tax system and so are included in the tax payments measure.

The number of payments takes into account electronic filing. Where full electronic filing and payment is allowed and it is used by the majority of medium-size businesses, the tax is counted as paid once a year even if filings and payments are more frequent. For payments made through third parties, such as tax on interest paid by a financial institution or fuel tax paid by a fuel distributor, only one payment is included even if payments are more frequent.

Where two or more taxes or contributions are filed for and paid jointly using the same form, each of these joint payments is counted once. For example, if mandatory health insurance contributions and mandatory pension contributions are filed for and paid together, only one of these contributions would be included in the number of payments.

Table 1 - What do the paying taxes indicators measure?


Time is recorded in hours per year. The indicator measures the time taken to prepare, file and pay three major types of taxes and contributions: the corporate income tax, value added or sales tax, and labor taxes, including payroll taxes and social contributions. Preparation time includes the time to collect all information necessary to compute the tax payable and to calculate the amount payable. If separate accounting books must be kept for tax purposes—or separate calculations made—the time associated with these processes is included. This extra time is included only if the regular accounting work is not enough to fulfill the tax accounting requirements. Filing time includes the time to complete all necessary tax return forms and file the relevant returns at the tax authority. Payment time considers the hours needed to make the payment online or in person. Where taxes and contributions are paid in person, the time includes delays while waiting.

Total tax rate

The total tax rate measures the amount of taxes and mandatory contributions borne by the business in the second year of operation, expressed as a share of commercial profit. Doing Business 2016 reports the total tax rate for calendar year 2014. The total amount of taxes borne is the sum of all the different taxes and contributions payable after accounting for allowable deductions and exemptions. The taxes withheld (such as personal income tax) or collected by the company and remitted to the tax authorities (such as value added tax, sales tax or goods and service tax) but not borne by the company are excluded. The taxes included can be divided into five categories: profit or corporate income tax, social contributions and labor taxes paid by the employer (for which all mandatory contributions are included, even if paid to a private entity such as a requited pension fund), property taxes, turnover taxes and other taxes (such as municipal fees and vehicle taxes). Fuel taxes are no longer included in the total tax rate because of the difficulty of computing these taxes in a consistent way for all economies covered. The fuel tax amounts are in most cases very small, and measuring these amounts is often complicated because they depend on fuel consumption. Fuel taxes continue to be counted in the number of payments.

Table 2 - Computing the total tax rate for Iraq

The total tax rate is designed to provide a comprehensive measure of the cost of all the taxes a business bears. It differs from the statutory tax rate, which merely provides the factor to be applied to the tax base. In computing the total tax rate, the actual tax payable is divided by commercial profit. Data for Iraq are provided as an example (table 2).

Commercial profit is essentially net profit before all taxes borne. It differs from the conventional profit before tax, reported in financial statements. In computing profit before tax, many of the taxes borne by a firm are deductible. In computing commercial profit, these taxes are not deductible. Commercial profit therefore presents a clear picture of the actual profit of a business before any of the taxes it bears in the course of the fiscal year.

Commercial profit is computed as sales minus cost of goods sold, minus gross salaries, minus administrative expenses, minus other expenses, minus provisions, plus capital gains (from the property sale) minus interest expense, plus interest income and minus commercial depreciation. To compute the commercial depreciation, a straight-line depreciation method is applied, with the following rates: 0% for the land, 5% for the building, 10% for the machinery, 33% for the computers, 20% for the office equipment, 20% for the truck and 10% for business development expenses. Commercial profit amounts to 59.4 times income per capita.

The methodology for calculating the total tax rate is broadly consistent with the Total Tax Contribution framework developed by PwC and the calculation within this framework for taxes borne. But while the work undertaken by PwC is usually based on data received from the largest companies in the economy, Doing Business focuses on a case study for a standardized medium-size company.


1. PwC refers to the network of member firms of PricewaterhouseCoopers International Limited (PwCIL) or, as the context requires, individual member firms of the PwC network. Each member firm is a separate legal entity and does not act as agent of PwCIL or any other member firm. PwCIL does not provide any services to clients. PwCIL is not responsible or liable for the acts or omissions of any of its member firms nor can it control the exercise of their professional judgment or bind them in any way. No member firm is responsible or liable for the acts or omissions of any other member firm nor can it control the exercise of another member firm’s professional judgment or bind another member firm or PwCIL in any way.
2. The nonlinear distance to frontier score for the total tax rate is equal to the distance to frontier score for the total tax rate to the power of 0.8.
3. The economies for which a multiple of three times income per capita has been used are Honduras, Mozambique, West Bank and Gaza, and Zimbabwe. Those for which a multiple of two times income per capita has been used are Belize, Benin, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic, Chad, Fiji, Guatemala, Haiti, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, the Federated States of Micronesia, Morocco, Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, the Philippines, the Solomon Islands, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Vanuatu and Zambia.