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Puzzling Tax Structures in Devloping Countries: A Comparison of Two Alternative Explanations

In: Fiscal Policy and Management in East Asia, NBER-EASE, Volume 16

  • Roger Gordon
  • Wei Li

Observed economic policies in developing countries differ sharply both from those observed among developed countries and from those forecast by existing models of optimal policies. For example, developing countries rely little on broad-based taxes, and make substantial use of tariffs and seignorage as nontax sources of revenue. The objective of this paper is to contrast the implications of two models designed to explain such anomalous policies. One approach, by Gordon-Li (2005), focuses on the greater difficulties faced in poor countries in monitoring taxable activity, and explores the best available policies given such difficulties. The other, building on Grossman-Helpman (1994), presumes that political-economy problems in developing countries are worse, leading to worse policy choices. The paper compares the contrasting theoretical implications of the two models with the data, and finds that the political-economy approach does poorly in reconciling many aspects of the data with the theory. In contrast, the forecasts from Gordon-Li model are largely consistent with the data currently available.

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This chapter was published in:
  • Takatoshi Ito & Andrew K. Rose, 2007. "Fiscal Policy and Management in East Asia, NBER-EASE, Volume 16," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number ito_07-1, May.
  • This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 0365.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:0365
    Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
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    1. Simeon Djankov & Rafael La Porta & Florencio Lopez-De-Silanes & Andrei Shleifer, 2002. "The Regulation Of Entry," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 117(1), pages 1-37, February.
    2. Rafael La Porta & Florencio Lopez-deSilanes & Andrei Shleifer, 2000. "Government Ownership of Banks," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1890, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
    3. 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.
    4. Grossman, Gene & Helpman, Elhanan, 1993. "Protection for Sale," CEPR Discussion Papers 827, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    5. Judd, Kenneth L, 1987. "The Welfare Cost of Factor Taxation in a Perfect-Foresight Model," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 95(4), pages 675-709, August.
    6. Peter A. Diamond & J. A. Mirrlees, 1968. "Optimal Taxation and Public Production," Working papers 22, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
    7. Emmanuel Saez, 2000. "The Desirability of Commodity Taxation under Non-Linear Income Taxation and Heterogeneous Tastes," NBER Working Papers 8029, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Beck, Thorsten & Demirguc-Kunt, Asli & Levine, Ross, 1999. "A new database on financial development and structure," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2146, The World Bank.
    9. Dominik H. Enste & Friedrich Schneider, 2000. "Shadow Economies: Size, Causes, and Consequences," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 38(1), pages 77-114, March.
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