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Tax Rates and Tax Evasion: Evidence from "Missing Imports" in China

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  • Raymond Fisman
  • Shang-Jin Wei

Abstract

Tax evasion, by its very nature, is difficult to observe. We quantify the effects of tax rates on tax evasion by examining the relationship in China between the tariff schedule and the "evasion gap," which we define as the difference between Hong Kong's reported exports to China at the product level and China's reported imports from Hong Kong. Our results imply that a one-percentage-point increase in the tax rate is associated with a 3 percent increase in evasion. Furthermore, the evasion gap is negatively correlated with tax rates on closely related products, suggesting that evasion takes place partly through misclassification of imports from higher-taxed categories to lower-taxed ones, in addition to underreporting the value of imports.

Suggested Citation

  • Raymond Fisman & Shang-Jin Wei, 2004. "Tax Rates and Tax Evasion: Evidence from "Missing Imports" in China," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(2), pages 471-500, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jpolec:v:112:y:2004:i:2:p:471-500
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Assaf Razin & Joel Slemrod, 1990. "Taxation in the Global Economy," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number razi90-1, December.
    2. Jonathan S. Feinstein, 1991. "An Econometric Analysis of Income Tax Evasion and its Detection," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 22(1), pages 14-35, Spring.
    3. Slemrod, Joel & Yitzhaki, Shlomo, 2002. "Tax avoidance, evasion, and administration," Handbook of Public Economics,in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 22, pages 1423-1470 Elsevier.
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    5. Kimberly A. Clausing, 2000. "The Impact of Transfer Pricing on Intrafirm Trade," NBER Chapters,in: International Taxation and Multinational Activity, pages 173-200 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Edgar L. Feige, 2004. "How Big IS the Irregular Economy?," Macroeconomics 0404005, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. Jean-Thomas Bernard & Robert Weiner, 1990. "Multinational Corporations, Transfer Prices, and Taxes: Evidence from the U.S.Petroleum Industry," NBER Chapters,in: Taxation in the Global Economy, pages 123-160 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Pritchett, Lant & Sethi, Geeta, 1994. "Tariff Rates, Tariff Revenue, and Tariff Reform: Some New Facts," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 8(1), pages 1-16, January.
    9. 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.
    10. Gordon H. Hanson & Robert C. Feenstra, 2000. "Aggregation Bias in the Factor Content of Trade: Evidence from U.S. Manufacturing," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(2), pages 155-160, May.
    11. repec:mes:challe:v:22:y:1979:i:5:p:5-13 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. Clotfelter, Charles T, 1983. "Tax Evasion and Tax Rates: An Analysis of Individual Returns," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 65(3), pages 363-373, August.
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    JEL classification:

    • H2 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue
    • F1 - International Economics - - Trade

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