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Optimal Tax Design and Enforcement with an Informal Sector

Author

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  • Robin Boadway
  • Motohiro Sato

Abstract

An optimal commodity tax approach is taken to compare trade taxes and VATs when some commodities are produced informally. Trade taxes apply to all imports and exports, including intermediate goods, while the VAT applies only to sales by the formal sector and imports. The VAT achieves production efficiency within the formal sector, but, unlike trade taxes, cannot indirectly tax profits. Making the size of the informal sector endogenous in each regime is potentially decisive. The ability of the government to change the size of the informal sector through costly enforcement may also tip the balance in favor of the VAT. (JEL E26, H21, H25)

Suggested Citation

  • Robin Boadway & Motohiro Sato, 2009. "Optimal Tax Design and Enforcement with an Informal Sector," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 1(1), pages 1-27, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aejpol:v:1:y:2009:i:1:p:1-27
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/pol.1.1.1
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Gordon, Roger & Li, Wei, 2009. "Tax structures in developing countries: Many puzzles and a possible explanation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(7-8), pages 855-866, August.
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    5. John Piggott & John Whalley, 2001. "VAT Base Broadening, Self Supply, and the Informal Sector," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(4), pages 1084-1094, September.
    6. Keen, Michael, 2008. "VAT, tariffs, and withholding: Border taxes and informality in developing countries," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(10-11), pages 1892-1906, October.
    7. Knud Munk, 2008. "Tax-tariff reform with costs of tax administration," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 15(6), pages 647-667, December.
    8. Auriol, Emmanuelle & Warlters, Michael, 2005. "Taxation base in developing countries," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(4), pages 625-646, April.
    9. Newbery, David M., 1986. "On the desirability of input taxes," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 20(3), pages 267-270.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E26 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Informal Economy; Underground Economy
    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation
    • H25 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Business Taxes and Subsidies

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