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VAT attacks!

  • Michael Keen


Like the theory of the second best that the 2006 congress marks, the value added tax (VAT) is now fifty years old. Judged by the extent and speed of its spread around the world, and the revenue that it raises, the VAT would seem to have been a remarkable success. Over the last few years, however, it has come under a series of attacks. This paper considers three of the most prominent of these. One is the fear (raised mainly in the United States) that the VAT actually does too good a job of raising tax revenue—which raises the empirical question of whether it has indeed proved as effective a source of revenue as its proponents claim and its opponents fear. The second is the view that the VAT does a bad job of taxing the informal sector—and that tariffs might consequently be a better revenue-raising instrument for many developing countries. The third attack is the most literal, by criminals rather than theorists: in the European Union and elsewhere, sophisticated VAT fraud, targeting its refund provisions, has become a serious concern. The paper also argues, more generally, that the many unanswered questions concerning the VAT reflect an unfortunate disconnect between the development of the tax itself and of second best tax analysis. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

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Article provided by Springer in its journal International Tax and Public Finance.

Volume (Year): 14 (2007)
Issue (Month): 4 (August)
Pages: 365-381

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Handle: RePEc:kap:itaxpf:v:14:y:2007:i:4:p:365-381
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  1. James E. Anderson, 1996. "Trade Reform with a Government Budget Constraint," NBER Working Papers 5827, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Ben Lockwood & Michael Keen, 2007. "The Value-Added Tax: Its Causes and Consequences," IMF Working Papers 07/183, International Monetary Fund.
  3. 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.
  4. Joel Slemrod, 2007. "Cheating Ourselves: The Economics of Tax Evasion," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(1), pages 25-48, Winter.
  5. 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.
  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. 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.
  8. Keen, Michael & Ligthart, Jenny E., 2002. "Coordinating tariff reduction and domestic tax reform," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(2), pages 489-507, March.
  9. John Piggott & John Whalley, 1998. "VAT Base Broadening, Self Supply, and The Informal Sector," NBER Working Papers 6349, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Besley, Timothy & Smart, Michael, 2007. "Fiscal restraints and voter welfare," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(3-4), pages 755-773, April.
  11. 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.
  12. Graham Harrison & Russell Krelove, 2005. "VAT Refunds: A Review of Country Experience," IMF Working Papers 05/218, International Monetary Fund.
  13. Keen, Michael & Smith, Stephen, 2006. "VAT Fraud and Evasion: What Do We Know and What Can Be Done?," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 59(4), pages 861-87, December.
  14. Newbery, David M., 1986. "On the desirability of input taxes," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 20(3), pages 267-270.
  15. Hans-Werner Sinn & Andrea Gebauer & Rüdiger Parsche, 2004. "The Ifo Institute’s Model for Reducing VAT Fraud: Payment First, Refund Later," CESifo Forum, Ifo Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 5(2), pages 30-34, October.
  16. Keen, Michael & Lockwood, Ben, 2006. "Is the VAT a Money Machine?," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 59(4), pages 905-28, December.
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