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VAT Base Broadening, Self Supply, and the Informal Sector

  • John Piggott
  • John Whalley

We develop a general equilibrium tax model to evaluate the impacts of equal yield base broadening in indirect taxes from high rate narrow based (typically manufactures) taxes to broad based taxes (including services) such as a VAT. We capture differences in choice of mode of supply between market goods, such as manufactures, which cannot be supplied other than through the market, and self-suppliable services and informal sector supplied products. Using this formulation, we are able to provide numerical examples of welfare worsening VAT base broadening, which expands the tax base from market based manufactures, in which there are few (or no) non taxed supply possibilities, to all goods and services where such possibilities exist. We show that the usual presumption that there are welfare benefits from equal yield VAT base broadening breaks down once tax induced increases in self supply of previously non taxed goods and services and in informal sector activity (in small scale construction and other areas) are taken into account. Moreover, since untaxed informal sector supply is typically from lower income to higher income households, they gain as comparable informal sector activity is taxed under the base broadening change. We provide a calibrated version of the model, which captures Canadian base broadening accompanying the introduction of the Canadian VAT (GST) in 1990. Results show the change to have been welfare worsening in aggregate but progressive; opposite to conventional belief. Aggregate welfare losses increase sharply if pre-existing income taxes enter the analysis, since VAT induced supply side losses compound with the income tax, while consumption side tax rate variance reducing gains do not

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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 91 (2001)
Issue (Month): 4 (September)
Pages: 1084-1094

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:91:y:2001:i:4:p:1084-1094
Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.91.4.1084
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  1. Bob Hamilton & John Whalley, 1989. "Reforming Indirect Taxes in Canada: Some General Equilibrium Estimates," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 22(3), pages 561-75, August.
  2. Browning, Edgar K, 1978. "The Burden of Taxation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(4), pages 649-71, August.
  3. Greenwood, J. & Rogerson, R. & Wright, R., 1993. "Household Production in Real Business Cycle Thoery," RCER Working Papers 347, University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER).
  4. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521319867 is not listed on IDEAS
  5. Jane G. Gravelle & Laurence J. Kotlikoff, 1987. "The Incidence and Efficiency Costs of Corporate Taxation when Corporate and Noncorporate Firms Produce the Same Good," NBER Working Papers 2462, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Angus Deaton, 1979. "Optimal Taxes and the Structure of Preferences," Working Papers 506, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  7. Jung, Young H. & Snow, Arthur & Trandel, Gregory A., 1994. "Tax evasion and the size of the underground economy," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(3), pages 391-402, July.
  8. John Piggott & John Whalley, 1994. "The Tax Unit and Household Production," NBER Working Papers 4820, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Dawkins, Christina & Srinivasan, T.N. & Whalley, John, 2001. "Calibration," Handbook of Econometrics, in: J.J. Heckman & E.E. Leamer (ed.), Handbook of Econometrics, edition 1, volume 5, chapter 58, pages 3653-3703 Elsevier.
  10. Kesselman, Jonathan R., 1989. "Income tax evasion : An intersectoral analysis," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 38(2), pages 137-182, March.
  11. Allingham, Michael G. & Sandmo, Agnar, 1972. "Income tax evasion: a theoretical analysis," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 1(3-4), pages 323-338, November.
  12. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521266550 is not listed on IDEAS
  13. Rolf Mirus & Roger S. Smith & Vladimir Karoleff, 1994. "Canada's Underground Economy Revisited: Update and Critique," Canadian Public Policy, University of Toronto Press, vol. 20(3), pages 235-252, September.
  14. Lars Peter Hansen & James J. Heckman, 1996. "The Empirical Foundations of Calibration," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 10(1), pages 87-104, Winter.
  15. Barnett, William A & Lee, Yul W, 1985. "The Global Properties of the Miniflex Laurent, Generalized Leontief, and Translog Flexible Functional Forms," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 53(6), pages 1421-37, November.
  16. Sadka, Efraim, 1977. "A theorem on uniform taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 7(3), pages 387-391, June.
  17. Lemieux, Thomas & Fortin, Bernard & Frechette, Pierre, 1994. "The Effect of Taxes on Labor Supply in the Underground Economy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(1), pages 231-54, March.
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