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The efficiency cost of tax enforcement: evidence from a panel of spanish firms

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  • Almunia, Miguel
  • Lopez-Rodriguez, David

Abstract

In modern tax systems, firms remit the majority of tax revenues raised by the government, which gives them opportunities to avoid and evade taxes by misreporting their activities. In this paper, we use a natural policy experiment to analyze how firms respond to different tax enforcement regimes. The Spanish Large Taxpayers’ Unit (LTU) monitors and enforces the taxation of companies with operating revenue above €6 million, resulting in more frequent tax audits and more information requirements for those firms. We exploit this discontinuity in enforcement intensity to estimate the impact of low enforcement on tax reporting behavior, using a panel dataset of financial statements for 85% of Spanish firms in the period 1999-2007. We apply two different identification strategies. First, we find an excess mass of firms locating (“bunching”) just below the revenue threshold. Based on the number of bunching firms, we estimate that firms reduce reported revenue by 1.4% to 7.5% to avoid falling in the high enforcement regime. Second, we run panel regressions with firm fixed effects and find that reported input costs do not respond significantly to the change in tax enforcement. This suggests that firms react to the enforcement discontinuity mostly by reporting lower revenues, without significantly distorting production. The efficiency costs of tax enforcement are thus likely to be small because tax evasion constitutes a reallocation of income to tax-evading firms. A back-of-the-envelope calculation shows that the loss in tax revenue due to tax evasion by non-LTU firms is, however, significant. In light of these results, we discuss potential reforms to improve tax enforcement policies.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 44153.

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Date of creation: 2012
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Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:44153

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Keywords: corporate tax evasion; tax enforcement; efficient taxation;

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References

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  1. Looney, Adam & Kroft, Kory & Chetty, Raj, 2009. "Salience and Taxation: Theory and Evidence," Scholarly Articles 9748525, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  2. Raj Chetty & John N. Friedman & Tore Olsen & Luigi Pistaferri, 2011. "Adjustment Costs, Firm Responses, and Micro vs. Macro Labor Supply Elasticities: Evidence from Danish Tax Records," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(2), pages 749-804.
  3. Emmanuel Saez, 2010. "Do Taxpayers Bunch at Kink Points?," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 2(3), pages 180-212, August.
  4. Raj Chetty & John N. Friedman & Emmanuel Saez, 2012. "Using Differences in Knowledge Across Neighborhoods to Uncover the Impacts of the EITC on Earnings," NBER Working Papers 18232, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. R Bayer & Frank Cowell, 2006. "Tax compliance and firms' strategic interdependence," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library 2680, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  6. Dharmapala, Dhammika & Slemrod, Joel & Wilson, John Douglas, 2011. "Tax policy and the missing middle: Optimal tax remittance with firm-level administrative costs," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 95(9), pages 1036-1047.
  7. Schneider, Friedrich & Buehn, Andreas & Montenegro, Claudio E., 2010. "Shadow economies all over the world : new estimates for 162 countries from 1999 to 2007," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5356, The World Bank.
  8. �ureo de Paula & Jose A. Scheinkman, 2010. "Value-Added Taxes, Chain Effects, and Informality," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 2(4), pages 195-221, October.
  9. Joel Slemrod, 2004. "The Economics of Corporate Tax Selfishness," NBER Working Papers 10858, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Bastani, Spencer & Selin, Håkan, 2011. "Bunching and Non-Bunching at Kink Points of the Swedish Tax schedule," Working Paper Series, Center for Fiscal Studies, Uppsala University, Department of Economics 2011:12, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.
  11. Cabral, Luís M B & Mata, José, 2001. "On the Evolution of the Firm Size Distribution: Facts and Theory," CEPR Discussion Papers, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers 3045, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  12. Henrik J. Kleven & Mazhar Waseem, 2013. "Using Notches to Uncover Optimization Frictions and Structural Elasticities: Theory and Evidence from Pakistan," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 128(2), pages 669-723.
  13. Reinganum, Jennifer F. & Wilde, Louis L., 1985. "Income tax compliance in a principal-agent framework," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 1-18, February.
  14. Allingham, Michael G. & Sandmo, Agnar, 1972. "Income tax evasion: a theoretical analysis," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 1(3-4), pages 323-338, November.
  15. Henrik Jacobsen Kleven & Claus Thustrup Kreiner & Emmanuel Saez, 2009. "Why Can Modern Governments Tax So Much? An Agency Model of Firms as Fiscal Intermediaries," NBER Working Papers 15218, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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Cited by:
  1. Félix Domínguez Barrero & Julio López Laborda & Fernando Rodrigo Sauco, 2014. ""El hueco que deja el Diablo": Una estimación del fraude en el IRPF con microdatos tributarios," Studies on the Spanish Economy eee2014-01, FEDEA.
  2. Casaburi, Lorenzo & Troiano, Ugo, 2013. "Ghost-House Busters: The Electoral Response to a Large Anti Tax Evasion Program," MPRA Paper 52242, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  3. Anne Brockmeyer, 2013. "The investment effect of taxation: evidence from a corporate tax kink," Working Papers, Oxford University Centre for Business Taxation 1317, Oxford University Centre for Business Taxation.

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