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Evasion behaviors of exporters and importers: Evidence from the U.S.–China trade data discrepancy


  • Ferrantino, Michael J.
  • Liu, Xuepeng
  • Wang, Zhi


Since the late 1990s, reported U.S. imports from China and Hong Kong have regularly and increasingly exceeded reported exports of China and Hong Kong to the United States. This discrepancy, which is not caused by re-exporting through Hong Kong, varies by product categories, and in some cases takes the opposite sign. In this paper, we focus on China's direct exports to the United States. Using a model that allows for simultaneous misreporting to two authorities, we find strong statistical evidence of under-reporting exports at the Chinese border to avoid paying value-added tax (VAT). The value of VAT avoided is estimated at $6.5 billion during 2002–2008, and the associated understatements account for approximately two-thirds of the discrepancy. We also provide evidence of tariff evasion at the U.S. border, in particular for related-party transactions, and indirect evidence of transfer pricing and evasion of Chinese capital controls. An estimated $2 billion of U.S. tariff revenue is lost due to such evasion during 2002–2008, which reduces the apparent size of the statistical discrepancy.

Suggested Citation

  • Ferrantino, Michael J. & Liu, Xuepeng & Wang, Zhi, 2012. "Evasion behaviors of exporters and importers: Evidence from the U.S.–China trade data discrepancy," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 86(1), pages 141-157.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:inecon:v:86:y:2012:i:1:p:141-157 DOI: 10.1016/j.jinteco.2011.08.006

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Gourdon, Julien & Monjon, Stéphanie & Poncet, Sandra, 2016. "Trade policy and industrial policy in China: What motivates public authorities to apply restrictions on exports?," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 105-120.
    2. Derek Kellenberg & Arik Levinson, 2016. "Misreporting Trade: Tariff Evasion, Corruption, and Auditing Standards," NBER Working Papers 22593, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Cyril Chalendard, 2015. "Use of internal information, external information acquisition and customs underreporting," Working Papers halshs-01179445, HAL.
    4. Shaar, Karam, 2017. "International trade data quality index," Working Paper Series 6128, Victoria University of Wellington, School of Economics and Finance.
    5. Joel CARIOLLE & Cyril CHALENDARD & Anne-Marie GEOURJON & Bertrand LAPORTE, 2017. "Going beyond analysis of internal data to support customs modernization: A case study in Gabon," Working Papers 201723, CERDI.
    6. Joel CARIOLLE & Cyril CHALENDARD & Anne-Marie GEOURJON & Bertrand LAPORTE, 2016. "Décloisonner l’analyse des données pour appuyer la modernisation des douanes : une illustration à partir du Gabon," Working Papers 201618, CERDI.
    7. Nitsch, Volker, 2016. "Trillion dollar estimate: Illicit financial flows from developing countries," Darmstadt Discussion Papers in Economics 227, Darmstadt University of Technology, Department of Law and Economics.
    8. Shaar, Karam & Baharumshah, Ahmad Zubaidi, 2016. "US-China trade: Who is telling the truth?," Working Paper Series 5146, Victoria University of Wellington, School of Economics and Finance.
    9. Ge, Ying & Lai, Huiwen & Zhu, Susan Chun, 2015. "Multinational price premium," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 115(C), pages 181-199.
    10. Shaar, Karam, 2017. "Reconciling International Trade Data," MPRA Paper 81572, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    11. Liu, Xuepeng & Shi, Huimin & Ferrantino, Michael, 2016. "Tax evasion through trade intermediation: Evidence from Chinese exporters," International Review of Economics & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 518-535.
    12. Jon Bakija & Ivan Badinski, 2014. "Evidence on the Responsiveness of Export-Related VAT Evasion to VAT Rates in the EU," Department of Economics Working Papers 2014-06, Department of Economics, Williams College.
    13. Kuntal K. Das & Laura Meriluoto & Amy Rice, 2016. "Export Tax and Tariff Evasion: Evidence of Misinvoicing in China-New Zealand Trade," Working Papers in Economics 16/35, University of Canterbury, Department of Economics and Finance.
    14. Liu, Xuepeng, 2013. "Tax avoidance through re-imports: The case of redundant trade," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 104(C), pages 152-164.

    More about this item


    Trade data discrepancy; Tax evasion; Export VAT rebates; Transfer pricing;

    JEL classification:

    • H26 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Tax Evasion and Avoidance
    • F1 - International Economics - - Trade


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