IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

Informal Taxation

  • Olken, Benjamin A.
  • Singhal, Monica

Informal payments are a frequently overlooked source of local public finance in developing countries. We use microdata from ten countries to establish stylized facts on the magnitude, form, and distributional implications of this "informal taxation." Informal taxation is wide- spread, particularly in rural areas, with substantial in-kind labor payments. The wealthy pay more, but pay less in percentage terms, and informal taxes are more regressive than formal taxes. Failing to include informal taxation underestimates household tax burdens and revenue decentralization in developing countries. We discuss various explanations for and implications of these observed stylized facts.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by Harvard Kennedy School of Government in its series Scholarly Articles with number 5689166.

in new window

Date of creation: 2011
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in American Economic Journal: Applied Economics
Handle: RePEc:hrv:hksfac:5689166
Contact details of provider: Postal:
79 JFK Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

Fax: 617-496-2554
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Jerry A. Hausman & Bronwyn H. Hall & Zvi Griliches, 1984. "Econometric Models for Count Data with an Application to the Patents-R&D Relationship," NBER Technical Working Papers 0017, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Ngau, Peter M, 1987. "Tensions in Empowerment: The Experience of the Harambee (Self-Help) Movement in Kenya," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 35(3), pages 523-38, April.
  3. Ghatak, Maitreesh, 1999. "Group lending, local information and peer selection," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(1), pages 27-50, October.
  4. David Masclet & Charles Noussair & Steven Tucker & Marie Claire Villeval, 2002. "Monetary and non Monetary Punishment in the Voluntary Contribution Mechanism," Post-Print halshs-00176878, HAL.
  5. Thomas, Barbara P., 1987. "Development through Harambee: Who wins and who loses? Rural self-help projects in Kenya," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 15(4), pages 463-481, April.
  6. Singhal, Monica & Olken, Benjamin A., 2009. "Informal Taxation," Scholarly Articles 4449108, Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
  7. Wooldridge, Jeffrey M., 1999. "Distribution-free estimation of some nonlinear panel data models," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 90(1), pages 77-97, May.
  8. Besley, T. & Coate, S., 1991. "Group Lending, Repayment Incentives And Social Collateral," Papers 152, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - Development Studies.
  9. Douglas C. Bice & William H. Hoyt, 1997. "The Impact of Mandates and Tax Limits on Voluntary Contributions to Local Public Services: An Application to Fire Protection Services," Public Economics 9704002, EconWPA.
  10. Benjamin, Dwayne, 1992. "Household Composition, Labor Markets, and Labor Demand: Testing for Separation in Agricultural Household Models," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 60(2), pages 287-322, March.
  11. Miguel, Edward & Gugerty, Mary Kay, 2005. "Ethnic diversity, social sanctions, and public goods in Kenya," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(11-12), pages 2325-2368, December.
  12. Townsend, Robert M, 1994. "Risk and Insurance in Village India," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(3), pages 539-91, May.
  13. Wilson, L. S., 1992. "The Harambee movement and efficient public good provision in Kenya," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 1-19, June.
  14. Robert M. Townsend, 1995. "Financial Systems in Northern Thai Villages," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 110(4), pages 1011-1046.
  15. Alesina, Alberto & Baqir, Reza & Easterly, William, 1999. "Public goods and ethnic divisions," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2108, The World Bank.
  16. Bergstrom, Theodore & Blume, Lawrence & Varian, Hal, 1986. "On the private provision of public goods," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 25-49, February.
  17. J. A. Mirrlees, 1971. "An Exploration in the Theory of Optimum Income Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 38(2), pages 175-208.
  18. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gaechter, . "Cooperation and Punishment in Public Goods Experiments," IEW - Working Papers 010, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  19. Khwaja, Asim Ijaz, 2009. "Can good projects succeed in bad communities?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(7-8), pages 899-916, August.
  20. Armin Falk & Ernst Fehr & Urs Fischbacher, 2005. "Driving Forces Behind Informal Sanctions," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 73(6), pages 2017-2030, November.
  21. Besley, Timothy & Coate, Stephen, 1992. "Workfare versus Welfare Incentive Arguments for Work Requirements in Poverty-Alleviation Programs," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(1), pages 249-61, March.
  22. Andreoni, James, 1990. "Impure Altruism and Donations to Public Goods: A Theory of Warm-Glow Giving?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 100(401), pages 464-77, June.
  23. Brunner, Eric & Sonstelie, Jon, 2003. "School finance reform and voluntary fiscal federalism," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(9-10), pages 2157-2185, September.
  24. Gordon, Roger & Li, Wei, 2009. "Tax structures in developing countries: Many puzzles and a possible explanation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(7-8), pages 855-866, August.
  25. Burgess, Robin & Stern, Nicholas, 1993. "Taxation and Development," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 31(2), pages 762-830, June.
  26. Abhijit V. Banerjee & Andrew F. Newman, 1998. "Information, the Dual Economy, and Development," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 65(4), pages 631-653.
  27. Mark Bagnoli & Barton L. Lipman, 1989. "Provision of Public Goods: Fully Implementing the Core through Private Contributions," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 56(4), pages 583-601.
  28. Beard, Victoria A., 2007. "Household Contributions to Community Development in Indonesia," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 35(4), pages 607-625, April.
  29. Glazer, Amihai & Konrad, Kai A, 1996. "A Signaling Explanation for Charity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(4), pages 1019-28, September.
  30. Ran Abramitzky, 2008. "The Limits of Equality: Insights from the Israeli Kibbutz," Discussion Papers 07-048, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
  31. Olken, Benjamin A., 2005. "Revealed community equivalence scales," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(2-3), pages 545-566, February.
  32. Ran Abramitzky, 2008. "The Limits of Equality: Insights from the Israeli Kibbutz," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 123(3), pages 1111-1159.
  33. Pranab Bardhan, 2002. "Decentralization of Governance and Development," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 16(4), pages 185-205, Fall.
  34. Alberto Alesina & Reza Baqir & William Easterly, 1999. "Public Goods and Ethnic Divisions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(4), pages 1243-1284.
  35. Abhijit Banerjee & Esther Duflo, 2006. "Addressing Absence," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(1), pages 117-132, Winter.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is featured on the following reading lists or Wikipedia pages:

  1. Informal Taxation (AEJ:AE 2011) in ReplicationWiki

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:hrv:hksfac:5689166. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Office for Scholarly Communication)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.