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Fiscal corruption: A vice or a virtue?

Listed author(s):
  • Odd-Helge Fjeldstad
  • Bertil Tungodden

Recent literature on tax administration in poor countries suggests that inducing more fiscal corruption may contribute to reducing tax evasion and increasing tax revenues. But does such an intriguing paradox justify policies that stimulate corruption? Our answer is no, and this note puts forward three arguments to support our view. First, while corruption may raise revenues in the short run, in general the opposite will be the case in the longer run. Second, the instrumental value of reducing corruption goes far beyond its effects on tax evasion and tax revenues. Accepting corruption as a policy strategy to increase tax revenues may undermine values of democracy and good governance. Third, eliminating corruption should be considered an end in itself. Thus, contrary to recent suggestions on incentive reforms in tax administration, the reasonable starting point for policy debates in this area should still be that an increase in fiscal corruption is not an appropriate instrument to raising tax revenues. Sustained development cannot grow from an institutional framework that fosters corruption and extra-legal tax enforcement.

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Paper provided by CMI (Chr. Michelsen Institute), Bergen, Norway in its series CMI Working Papers with number WP 2001:13.

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Length: 12 pages
Date of creation: 2001
Handle: RePEc:chm:wpaper:wp2001-13
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  1. Huther, Jeff & Shah, Anwar, 2000. "Anti-corruption policies and programs : a framework for evaluation," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2501, The World Bank.
  2. Alm, James & Bahl, Roy & Murray, Matthew N, 1991. "Tax Base Erosion in Developing Countries," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 39(4), pages 849-872, July.
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  7. Chand, Sheetal K. & Moene, Karl O., 1999. "Controlling Fiscal Corruption," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 27(7), pages 1129-1140, July.
  8. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gaechter, "undated". "Fairness and Retaliation: The Economics of Reciprocitys," IEW - Working Papers 040, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  9. Andvig, Jens Chr. & Moene, Karl Ove, 1990. "How corruption may corrupt," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 13(1), pages 63-76, January.
  10. Graetz, Michael J. & Reinganum, Jennifer F. & Wilde, Louis L., . "The Tax Compliance Game: Toward an Interactive Theory of Law Enforcement," Working Papers 589, California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
  11. Besley, Timothy & McLaren, John, 1993. "Taxes and Bribery: The Role of Wage Incentives," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 103(416), pages 119-41, January.
  12. Fjeldstad, Odd-helge & Semboja, Joseph, 2001. "Why People Pay Taxes: The Case of the Development Levy in Tanzania," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 29(12), pages 2059-2074, December.
  13. Abhijit V. Banerjee, 1992. "A Simple Model of Herd Behavior," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(3), pages 797-817.
  14. HINDRIKS, Jean & KEEN, Michael & MUTHOO, Abhinay, "undated". "Corruption, extortion and evasion," CORE Discussion Papers RP 1671, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
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