Geographies in Depth

The number of days Europeans have to work to pay off their annual tax bills

The headquarters of the European Central Bank (ECB) are pictured in Frankfurt June 6, 2013. The European Central Bank held its main interest rate at a record low of 0.50 percent on Thursday.

Research examines taxation across Europe, including the number of days you have to work until you stop paying tax, and start keeping your earnings. Image: REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski

Aamna Mohdin
Reporter, Quartz
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Geographies in Depth?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Social Protection is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Social Protection

For five consecutive years, Belgians have paid the highest amount of taxes in the European Union (EU). But after reducing the real tax rate last year, Belgium gave up the not-so coveted title to its neighbor.

With a real tax rate of 57.53%, France topped the list in 2016. Belgium was second, and Austria came in third. Sweden rounded up the top ten with a real tax rate of 47.13%.

The top ten highest real tax rate in the EU
Image: Quartz

Cyprus ranked at the bottom of the EU’s 28 member states, with a real tax rate of 23.85%—less than half of France’s. Workers in the 28 nations that are (currently) part of the EU saw their average real tax rate decrease slightly for the second time in the six years—from 45.19% to 44.96%.

The average French earner has to work 210 days—until July 29—before they stop paying taxes to the government and start keeping their income. It’s known as the “tax liberation day,” which a recent study(pdf) by the Brussels-based Institut Économique Molinari uses to rank the tax burdens of individual employees earning typical salaries in the EU.

How long an employee needs to work to pay off annual tax bill in days
Image: Quartz

Belgium’s tax liberation day is now nine days earlier (July 27), after the effective tax rate was reduced from 59.47% to 56.9%. But, the report notes that this tax deduction resulted in “little or no extra cash in typical workers’ pockets” as the government increased taxes on electricity, diesel fuel, and alcohol.

Twenty of the 28 EU member states have raised VAT rates since 2009, according to the report. The largest increase was implemented in Hungary, where VAT jumped from 20% to 27%.

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

EU falling short of digital transformation goals, new report finds

David Elliott

July 19, 2024

About Us



Partners & Members

  • Sign in
  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum