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Tax rates, governance, and the informal economy in high-income countries

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  • Kuehn, Zoë

Abstract

This paper studies the mechanisms behind the informal economy in high-income countries. About 16.3% of output in high-income OECD countries was produced informally in 2001-02. In a recent paper Davis and Henrekson [2004] show that there exists a positive relationship between tax rates and the informal economy for high-income OECD countries. Existing models of the informal economy mostly focus on developing countries. To account for the informal economy in high-income countries, build a model economy, following Lucas [1978], in which agents of different managerial abilities decide to become workers, managers of informal firms, or managers of formal firms. In contrast to formal managers, managers of informal firms do not pay taxes but run the risk of getting caught, taxed, and fined. A calibrated version of the model economy is able to generate the observed differences in informal economy of 21 high-income countries. Although tax rates are crucial for explaining the observed differences in informal economy, the quality of governance, the extent to which these tax rates are enforced, also plays an important role. Policy experiments show that by improving the enforcement of their tax policies countries can reduce informality. A smaller informal economy is accompanied by larger firms and higher productivity.

Suggested Citation

  • Kuehn, Zoë, 2007. "Tax rates, governance, and the informal economy in high-income countries," UC3M Working papers. Economics we078551, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. Departamento de Economía.
  • Handle: RePEc:cte:werepe:we078551
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    Cited by:

    1. Alessandro Di Nola & Georgi Kocharkov & Aleksandar Vasilev, 2017. "Productivity, Taxation and Evasion: An Analysis of the Determinants of the Informal Economy," Bulgarian Economic Papers (www.bep.bg) bep-2017-04, St Kliment Ohridski University of Sofia, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration / Center for Economic Theories and Policies, revised Apr 2017.
    2. Dan Andrews & Aida Caldera Sánchez & Åsa Johansson, 2011. "Towards a Better Understanding of the Informal Economy," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 873, OECD Publishing.
    3. Colin C. Williams, 2014. "Confronting the Shadow Economy," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 15370, April.
    4. Colin C. Williams & Friedrich Schneider, 2016. "Measuring the Global Shadow Economy," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 16551, April.
    5. Alonso-Ortiz, Jorge & Leal Ordonez, Julio, 2013. "The Elasticity of Informality to Taxes and Transfers," MPRA Paper 49568, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. Yilmaz Bayar & Omer Faruk Ozturk, 2016. "Financial Development and Shadow Economy in European Union Transition Economies," Managing Global Transitions, University of Primorska, Faculty of Management Koper, vol. 14(2 (Summer), pages 157-173.
    7. Giorgio Brosio & Juan Pablo Jiménez & Roberto Zanola, 2014. "Alternative views on the origins and impact of the informal economy," Chapters,in: A Handbook of Alternative Theories of Public Economics, chapter 21, pages 485-502 Edward Elgar Publishing.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Informal economies;

    JEL classification:

    • O17 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Formal and Informal Sectors; Shadow Economy; Institutional Arrangements
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply
    • H2 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue

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