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The Marginal Cost of Public Funds in Developing Countries: An Application to 38 African Countries

  • Auriol, Emmanuelle
  • Warlters, Michael

In this paper we propose estimates of the marginal cost of public funds (MCF) in 38 African countries. We develop a simple general equilibrium mode inspired by the “1-2-3” model of Devarajan et al. (1994) that can handle taxes on the five major tax classes, takes account of the informal sector, and can be calibrated with little more than national accounts data. Sensitivity analysis suggests that our base case estimates are reasonably robust for purposes of tax reform. Contrary to conventional wisdom, differences in MCF are not strongly related to the wealth of the country. We hence show that a reasonable estimate of the average MCF in Africa is 1.17. On the other hand, there is a strong relationship between the size of the informal sector and the value of MCF. Moreover on average taxes on factors have high MCFs and taxes on imports and domestic goods have low MCFs. This suggests that welfare could be improved by increased reliance on VATs and reduced reliance on exports and factor taxes, and by reducing red tape barriers to business entry into the formal sector.

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Paper provided by Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse in its series IDEI Working Papers with number 371.

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Date of creation: Oct 2007
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Publication status: Published in Journal of Development Economics, vol.�97, n°1, janvier 2012, p.�58-72.
Handle: RePEc:ide:wpaper:4375
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  1. Stuart, Charles E, 1984. "Welfare Costs per Dollar of Additional Tax Revenue in the United States," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(3), pages 352-62, June.
  2. Bernard Gauthier & Ritva Reinikka, 2006. "Shifting Tax Burdens through Exemptions and Evasion: an Empirical Investigation of Uganda," Journal of African Economies, Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE), vol. 15(3), pages 373-398, September.
  3. Odd-Helge Fjeldstad, 2002. "Fighting fiscal corruption: The case of the Tanzania Revenue Authority," CMI Working Papers WP 2002:3, CMI (Chr. Michelsen Institute), Bergen, Norway.
  4. Benge, M., 1999. "Marginal Excess Burdens of Taxes on Capital and on Labour Income in a Small Open Economy," Papers 364, Australian National University - Department of Economics.
  5. Abdelhak Senhadji, 1998. "Time-Series Estimation of Structural Import Demand Equations: A Cross-Country Analysis," IMF Staff Papers, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 45(2), pages 236-268, June.
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