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Puzzling Tax Structures in Devloping Countries: A Comparison of Two Alternative Explanations

In: Fiscal Policy and Management in East Asia, NBER-EASE, Volume 16

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  • Roger Gordon
  • Wei Li

Abstract

Observed economic policies in developing countries differ sharply both from those observed among developed countries and from those forecast by existing models of optimal policies. For example, developing countries rely little on broad-based taxes, and make substantial use of tariffs and seignorage as nontax sources of revenue. The objective of this paper is to contrast the implications of two models designed to explain such anomalous policies. One approach, by Gordon-Li (2005), focuses on the greater difficulties faced in poor countries in monitoring taxable activity, and explores the best available policies given such difficulties. The other, building on Grossman-Helpman (1994), presumes that political-economy problems in developing countries are worse, leading to worse policy choices. The paper compares the contrasting theoretical implications of the two models with the data, and finds that the political-economy approach does poorly in reconciling many aspects of the data with the theory. In contrast, the forecasts from Gordon-Li model are largely consistent with the data currently available.

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This chapter was published in:

  • Takatoshi Ito & Andrew K. Rose, 2007. "Fiscal Policy and Management in East Asia, NBER-EASE, Volume 16," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number ito_07-1, July.
    This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 0365.

    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:0365

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    1. Grossman, G.M. & Helpman, E., 1992. "Protection for Sale," Papers 21-92, Tel Aviv.
    2. Djankov, Simeon & La Porta, Rafael & Lopez-de-Silanes, Florencio & Shleifer, Andrei, 2001. "The Regulation of Entry," Working Paper Series rwp01-015, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    3. Saez, Emmanuel, 2002. "The desirability of commodity taxation under non-linear income taxation and heterogeneous tastes," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 83(2), pages 217-230, February.
    4. Rafael La Porta & Florencio Lopez-De-Silanes & Andrei Shleifer, 2002. "Government Ownership of Banks," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 57(1), pages 265-301, 02.
    5. Kenneth L. Judd, 1984. "The Welfare Cost of Factor Taxation in a Perfect Foresight Model," Discussion Papers 643, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
    6. Dominik H. Enste & Friedrich Schneider, 2000. "Shadow Economies: Size, Causes, and Consequences," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 38(1), pages 77-114, March.
    7. Beck, Thorsten & Demirguc-Kunt, Asli & Levine, Ross, 1999. "A new database on financial development and structure," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2146, The World Bank.
    8. Peter A. Diamond & J. A. Mirrlees, 1968. "Optimal Taxation and Public Production," Working papers 22, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
    9. Roger Gordon & Wei Li, 2005. "Tax Structure in Developing Countries: Many Puzzles and a Possible Explanation," NBER Working Papers 11267, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:
    1. Daianu, Daniel & Kallai, Ella & Lungu, Laurian, 2012. "Tax Policy under the Curse of Low Revenues: The Case of Romania (Part II)," Journal for Economic Forecasting, Institute for Economic Forecasting, vol. 0(2), pages 143-162, June.
    2. Michael M. Alba, 2007. "Comment on "Puzzling Tax Structures in Devloping Countries: A Comparison of Two Alternative Explanations"," NBER Chapters, in: Fiscal Policy and Management in East Asia, NBER-EASE, Volume 16, pages 37-41 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Knud Jørgen Munk, 2006. "Tax-tariff reform with costs of tax administration," Economics Working Papers 2006-14, School of Economics and Management, University of Aarhus.
    4. Aizenman, Joshua & Jinjarak, Yothin, 2006. "Globalization and Developing Countries - a Shrinking Tax Base ?," Santa Cruz Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt8r12k4xr, Department of Economics, UC Santa Cruz.
    5. Richard Arnott, 2008. "Housing policy in developing countries. The importance of the informal economy," Working Papers 200801, University of California at Riverside, Department of Economics, revised Jan 2008.
    6. Daniel M. Hungerman, 2014. "Public Goods, Hidden Income, and Tax Evasion: Some Nonstandard Results from the Warm-Glow Model," NBER Working Papers 19804, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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