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Income Tax Flattening: Does It Help to Reduce the Shadow Economy?

  • Peter, Klara Sabirianova

    ()

    (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill)

This paper examines the effect of global transition to simpler, flatter income tax systems on the size of the shadow economy. By offering a new estimation framework, the paper revives the traditional electricity consumption approach to measuring the shadow economy. It overcomes the limitations of previous literature by using a new functional form, better quality data, a larger sample of 170 countries, a longer time span of 25 years, a panel framework, and instrumental variables. Our analysis provides strong evidence of a positive relationship between income tax rates and the size of the shadow economy. The effects of structural progressivity and complexity of national tax schedules are also found to be positive and statistically significant. These positive effects are reinforced when tax changes are accompanied by improving government services and strengthening the legal system. The flat tax is estimated to reduce the shadow economy in the short run, but this effect diminishes and disappears in the long run.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 4223.

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Length: 50 pages
Date of creation: Jun 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp4223
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  1. Slemrod, Joel B, 1985. "An Empirical Test for Tax Evasion," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 67(2), pages 232-38, May.
  2. Jan Hanousek & Filip Palda, 2006. "Problems measuring the underground economy in transition," The Economics of Transition, The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, vol. 14(4), pages 707-718, October.
  3. Devereux, Michael P. & Lockwood, Ben & Redoano, Michela, 2008. "Do countries compete over corporate tax rates?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(5-6), pages 1210-1235, June.
  4. Simon Johnson & Daniel Kaufman & Andrei Shleifer, 1997. "The Unofficial Economy in Transition," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 28(2), pages 159-240.
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  6. Clotfelter, Charles T, 1983. "Tax Evasion and Tax Rates: An Analysis of Individual Returns," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 65(3), pages 363-73, August.
  7. Axel Dreher & Friedrich Schneider, 2006. "Corruption and the Shadow Economy: An Empirical Analysis," CREMA Working Paper Series 2006-01, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
  8. Yuriy Gorodnichenko & Jorge Martinez-Vazquez & Klara Sabirianova Peter, 2009. "Myth and Reality of Flat Tax Reform: Micro Estimates of Tax Evasion Response and Welfare Effects in Russia," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 117(3), pages 504-554, 06.
  9. Klara Sabirianova Peter & Steve Buttrick & Denvil Duncan, 2007. "Global Reform of Personal Income Taxation, 1981-2005: Evidence from 189 Countries," International Center for Public Policy Working Paper Series, at AYSPS, GSU paper0721, International Center for Public Policy, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University.
  10. Dominik H. Enste & Friedrich Schneider, 2000. "Shadow Economies: Size, Causes, and Consequences," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 38(1), pages 77-114, March.
  11. Rork, Jonathan C., 2003. "Coveting Thy Neighbors' Taxation," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 56(4), pages 775-87, December.
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  13. Friedman, Eric & Johnson, Simon & Kaufmann, Daniel & Zoido-Lobaton, Pablo, 2000. "Dodging the grabbing hand: the determinants of unofficial activity in 69 countries," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(3), pages 459-493, June.
  14. Edgar L. Feige & Ivica Urban, 2003. "Estimating the Size and Growth of Unrecorded Economic Activity in Transition Countries: A Re-evaluation of Electric Consumption Method Estimates and their Implications," Macroeconomics 0311010, EconWPA.
  15. Kaufmann, Daniel & Kaliberda, Aleksander, 1996. "Integrating the unofficial economy into the dynamics of post-socialist economies : a framework of analysis and evidence," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1691, The World Bank.
  16. Schneider, Friedrich, 1986. " Estimating the Size of the Danish Shadow Economy Using the Currency Demand Approach: An Attempt," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 88(4), pages 643-68.
  17. Michael Alexeev & William Pyle, 2001. "A Note on Measuring the Unofficial Economy in the Former Soviet Republics," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series 436, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
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  19. repec:dgr:uvatin:2006061 is not listed on IDEAS
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  21. repec:dgr:uvatin:20060061 is not listed on IDEAS
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