IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/
MyIDEAS: Login to save this article or follow this journal

VAT, tariffs, and withholding: Border taxes and informality in developing countries

  • Keen, Michael

This paper explores the implications of a distinctive feature of the value added tax (VAT) that is stressed by practitioners but has been largely overlooked by theorists: that it functions, in part, as a tax on the purchases of informal operators from formal sector businesses and, not least, on their imports. It also stresses the potential importance of the withholding taxes that are levied by many developing countries -- which have also been ignored. It is shown, in a simple model of informality, that if both of these instruments are optimally deployed then the usual prescription that a small economy should not deploy tariffs remains valid even in the presence of an informal sector; and a simple strategy is established -- generalizing the standard prescription developed in models without informality -- for deploying these instruments so as to preserve government revenue and increase welfare in the face of efficiency-improving tariff cuts. Conditions are established under which a VAT alone is fully optimal, precisely because it is in part a tax on informal sector production. But they are restrictive: in general, an efficient tax structure requires deploying both a VAT and withholding taxes.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/B6V76-4SMWF8K-1/2/51c5185aaba44ca7a96e3ca25e7bfeb7
Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Public Economics.

Volume (Year): 92 (2008)
Issue (Month): 10-11 (October)
Pages: 1892-1906

as
in new window

Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:92:y:2008:i:10-11:p:1892-1906
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505578

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Emran, M. Shahe & Stiglitz, Joseph E., 2005. "On selective indirect tax reform in developing countries," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(4), pages 599-623, April.
  2. Keen, Michael & Mintz, Jack, 2004. "The optimal threshold for a value-added tax," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(3-4), pages 559-576, March.
  3. Hatzipanayotou, Panos & Michael, Michael S. & Miller, Stephen M., 1994. "Win-win indirect tax reform : A modest proposal," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 44(1-2), pages 147-151.
  4. Aureo de Paula & Jose A. Scheinkman, 2007. "The Informal Sector," PIER Working Paper Archive 07-033, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania.
  5. James E. Anderson, 1996. "Trade Reform with a Government Budget Constraint," NBER Working Papers 5827, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Baunsgaard, Thomas & Keen, Michael, 2010. "Tax revenue and (or?) trade liberalization," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(9-10), pages 563-577, October.
  7. Roger Gordon & Wei Li, 2005. "Tax Structure in Developing Countries: Many Puzzles and a Possible Explanation," NBER Working Papers 11267, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. 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.
  9. Knud Jørgen Munk, 2005. "Tax-tariff reform with costs of tax administration," Economics Working Papers 2005-21, School of Economics and Management, University of Aarhus.
  10. Newbery, David M., 1986. "On the desirability of input taxes," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 20(3), pages 267-270.
  11. Diamond, Peter A & Mirrlees, James A, 1971. "Optimal Taxation and Public Production: I--Production Efficiency," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 61(1), pages 8-27, March.
  12. Keen, M. & Ligthart, J.E., 2004. "Coordinating Tariff Reduction and Domestic Tax Reform under Imperfect Competition," Discussion Paper 2004-78, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
  13. Michael Keen & Johanna Elisabeth Ligthart, 1999. "Coordinating Tariff Reduction and Domestic Tax Reform," IMF Working Papers 99/93, International Monetary Fund.
  14. Aureo de Paula & Jose A. Scheinkman, 2007. "The Informal Sector, Second Version," PIER Working Paper Archive 07-035, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania, revised 17 Oct 2007.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:92:y:2008:i:10-11:p:1892-1906. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Zhang, Lei)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.