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Does it pay firms to register for taxes ? the impact of formality on firm profitability

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  • McKenzie, David
  • Sakho, Yaye Seynabou

Abstract

This paper estimates the impact of registering for taxes on firm profits in Bolivia, the country with the highest levels of informality in Latin America. A new survey of micro and small firms enables the authors to control for a rich set of measures of owner ability and business motivations that can affect both profits and the decision to formalize. The paper identifies the impact of tax registration on business profitability using the distance of a firm from the tax office where registration occurs, conditional on the distance to the city center, as an instrument for registration. Proximity to the tax office provides firms with more information about registration, but is argued to not directly affect profits. The findings show that tax registration leads to significantly higher profits for the firms that the instrument affects. However, there is also evidence of heterogeneous effects of tax formality on profits. Tax registration is found to increase profits for the mid-size firms in the sample, but to lower profits for both the smaller and larger firms, in contrast to the standard view that formality increases profits. The analysis shows that owners of large firms who have managed to stay informal have higher entrepreneurial ability than formal firm owners, in contrast to the standard view (correct among smaller firms) that informal firm owners have low ability.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 4449.

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Date of creation: 01 Dec 2007
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:4449

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Keywords: Microfinance; Debt Markets; Transport Economics Policy&Planning; Taxation&Subsidies; E-Business;

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References

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  1. Rauch, James E., 1991. "Modelling the informal sector formally," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 35(1), pages 33-47, January.
  2. Loayza, Norman V., 1996. "The economics of the informal sector: a simple model and some empirical evidence from Latin America," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 45(1), pages 129-162, December.
  3. Bruhn, Miriam, 2008. "License to sell : the effect of business registration reform on entrepreneurial activity in Mexico," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4538, The World Bank.
  4. David J. McKenzie & Christopher Woodruff, 2006. "Do Entry Costs Provide an Empirical Basis for Poverty Traps? Evidence from Mexican Microenterprises," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 55, pages 3-42.
  5. John Gibson & David McKenzie, 2007. "Using the Global Positioning System (GPS) in Household Surveys For Better Economics and Better Policy," Working Papers in Economics 07/04, University of Waikato, Department of Economics.
  6. Stephane Straub, 2004. "Informal Sector: The Credit Market Channel," ESE Discussion Papers 101, Edinburgh School of Economics, University of Edinburgh.
  7. Kaplan, David S. & Piedra, Eduardo & Seira, Enrique, 2007. "Entry regulation and business start-ups : evidence from Mexico," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4322, The World Bank.
  8. Fajnzylber, Pablo & Maloney, William F. & Rojas, Gabriel V. Montes, 2006. "Releasing constraints to growth or pushing on a string ? the impact of credit, training, business associations, and taxes on the performance of Mexican micro-firms," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3807, The World Bank.
  9. Friedrich Schneider & Dominik Enste, 2000. "Shadow Economies Around the World," IMF Working Papers 00/26, International Monetary Fund.
  10. Katayama, Hajime & Lu, Shihua & Tybout, James R., 2009. "Firm-level productivity studies: Illusions and a solution," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 27(3), pages 403-413, May.
  11. Alberto Abadie & David Drukker & Jane Leber Herr & Guido W. Imbens, 2004. "Implementing matching estimators for average treatment effects in Stata," Stata Journal, StataCorp LP, vol. 4(3), pages 290-311, September.
  12. Maloney, William F., 2004. "Informality Revisited," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 32(7), pages 1159-1178, July.
  13. 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.
  14. Imbens, Guido W & Angrist, Joshua D, 1994. "Identification and Estimation of Local Average Treatment Effects," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(2), pages 467-75, March.
  15. David Kaplan & Eduardo Piedra & Enrique Seira, 2006. "Are Burdensome Registration Procedures an Important Barrier on Firm Creation? Evidence from Mexico," Discussion Papers 06-013, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
  16. de Mel, Suresh & McKenzie, David & Woodruff, Christopher, 2007. "Measuring microenterprise profits : don't ask how the sausage is made," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4229, The World Bank.
  17. Fajnzylber, Pablo & Maloney, William F. & Montes-Rojas, Gabriel V., 2009. "Does Formality Improve Micro-Firm Performance? Quasi-Experimental Evidence from the Brazilian SIMPLES Program," IZA Discussion Papers 4531, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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