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Policies, Enforcement, and Customs Evasion: Evidence from India

  • Prachi Mishra
  • Arvind Subramanian
  • Petia Topalova

We examine the effect of tariff policies on evasion of customs duties, in the context of the trade reform in India of the 1990s. We exploit the variation in tariff rates across time and products to identify the evasion elasticity, namely, the effect of tariffs on evasion, and relate this elasticity to factors related to customs enforcement or the quality of customs institutions. We find a positive and robust effect of tariffs on import tax evasion. We then show that the evasion elasticity is influenced by certain product characteristics that determine how easy it is to detect evasion (with more differentiated products exhibiting a higher evasion elasticity). This evasion elasticity, which we broadly interpret as reflecting the quality of customs administration, has not improved over the 1990s. Finally, our results suggest that the effectiveness of customs in addressing evasion may be better in India than China, although China appears to be catching up over time.

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Paper provided by International Monetary Fund in its series IMF Working Papers with number 07/60.

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Length: 39
Date of creation: 01 Mar 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:imf:imfwpa:07/60
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  1. Krueger, Anne O, 1974. "The Political Economy of the Rent-Seeking Society," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 64(3), pages 291-303, June.
  2. Javorcik, Beata S. & Narciso, Gaia, 2008. "Differentiated products and evasion of import tariffs," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(2), pages 208-222, December.
  3. Pritchett, Lant & Sethi, Geeta, 1994. "Tariff Rates, Tariff Revenue, and Tariff Reform: Some New Facts," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 8(1), pages 1-16, January.
  4. Petia Topalova & Amit Khandelwal, 2011. "Trade Liberalization and Firm Productivity: The Case of India," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 93(3), pages 995-1009, August.
  5. Raymond Fisman & Shang-Jin Wei, 2004. "Tax Rates and Tax Evasion: Evidence from "Missing Imports" in China," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(2), pages 471-500, April.
  6. Joel Slemrod & Wojciech Kopczuk, 2000. "The Optimal Elasticity of Taxable Income," NBER Working Papers 7922, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. James E. Rauch, 1996. "Networks versus Markets in International Trade," NBER Working Papers 5617, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Allingham, Michael G. & Sandmo, Agnar, 1972. "Income tax evasion: a theoretical analysis," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 1(3-4), pages 323-338, November.
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