IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/nbr/nberwo/15218.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Why Can Modern Governments Tax So Much? An Agency Model of Firms as Fiscal Intermediaries

Author

Listed:
  • Henrik Jacobsen Kleven
  • Claus Thustrup Kreiner
  • Emmanuel Saez

Abstract

This paper presents a simple agency model to explain why third-party income reporting by employers dramatically improves income tax enforcement. Modern firms have a large number of employees and carry out complex production tasks, which requires the use of accurate business records. Because such records are widely used within the firm, any single employee can denounce collusive tax cheating between employees and the employer by revealing the true records to the government. We show that, if a firm is large enough, such whistleblowing threats will make tax enforcement successful even with low penalties and low audit rates. Embedding this agency model into the standard Allingham-Sandmo tax evasion model, we show that third-party reporting improves tax enforcement if the government disallows self-reported losses or audits such losses more stringently, which fits with actual tax policy practices. We also embed the agency model into a simple macroeconomic growth model where the size of firms grows with exogenous technological progress. In early stages of development, firms are small, tax rates are severely constrained by enforcement, and the size of government is too small. As firm size increases, the enforcement constraint is slackened, and government size is growing. In late stages of development, firm size is sufficiently large to make third-party tax enforcement completely effective and government size is socially optimal.

Suggested Citation

  • Henrik Jacobsen Kleven & Claus Thustrup Kreiner & Emmanuel Saez, 2009. "Why Can Modern Governments Tax So Much? An Agency Model of Firms as Fiscal Intermediaries," NBER Working Papers 15218, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15218
    Note: PE
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w15218.pdf
    Download Restriction: no
    ---><---

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. James R. Tybout, 2000. "Manufacturing Firms in Developing Countries: How Well Do They Do, and Why?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 38(1), pages 11-44, March.
    2. Timothy Besley & Torsten Persson, 2009. "The Origins of State Capacity: Property Rights, Taxation, and Politics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(4), pages 1218-1244, September.
    3. Timothy Besley & Torsten Persson, 2010. "State Capacity, Conflict, and Development," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 78(1), pages 1-34, January.
    4. Gary S. Becker, 1974. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," NBER Chapters, in: Essays in the Economics of Crime and Punishment, pages 1-54, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Julia Cage & Lucie Gadenne, 2014. "Tax Revenues, Development, and the Fiscal Cost of Trade Liberalization, 1792-2006," Sciences Po publications info:hdl:2441/4icc4hr7684, Sciences Po.
    6. Crocker, Keith J. & Slemrod, Joel, 2005. "Corporate tax evasion with agency costs," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(9-10), pages 1593-1610, September.
    7. James Andreoni & Brian Erard & Jonathan Feinstein, 1998. "Tax Compliance," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(2), pages 818-860, June.
    8. James Alt, 1983. "The evolution of tax structures," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 41(1), pages 181-222, January.
    9. Dina Pomeranz, 2015. "No Taxation without Information: Deterrence and Self-Enforcement in the Value Added Tax," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(8), pages 2539-2569, August.
    10. Michael Carlos Best & Anne Brockmeyer & Henrik Jacobsen Kleven & Johannes Spinnewijn & Mazhar Waseem, 2015. "Production versus Revenue Efficiency with Limited Tax Capacity: Theory and Evidence from Pakistan," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 123(6), pages 1311-1355.
    11. Barro, Robert J, 1990. "Government Spending in a Simple Model of Endogenous Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(5), pages 103-126, October.
    12. Azariadis, Costas & Stachurski, John, 2005. "Poverty Traps," Handbook of Economic Growth, in: Philippe Aghion & Steven Durlauf (ed.), Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 5, Elsevier.
    13. Brennan,Geoffrey & Buchanan,James M., 2006. "The Power to Tax," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521027922, October.
    14. Julia Cage & Lucie Gadenne, 2014. "Tax Revenues, Development, and the Fiscal Cost of Trade Liberalization, 1792-2006," Sciences Po publications info:hdl:2441/4icc4hr7684, Sciences Po.
    15. Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson, 2000. "Why Did the West Extend the Franchise? Democracy, Inequality, and Growth in Historical Perspective," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(4), pages 1167-1199.
    16. Timothy Besley & Torsten Persson, 2014. "Why Do Developing Countries Tax So Little?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 28(4), pages 99-120, Fall.
    17. Markus Poschke, 2018. "The Firm Size Distribution across Countries and Skill-Biased Change in Entrepreneurial Technology," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 10(3), pages 1-41, July.
    18. Kong-Pin & C.Y. Cyrus Chu, 2005. "Internal Control versus External Manipulation: A Model of Corporate Income Tax Evasion," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 36(1), pages 151-164, Spring.
    19. Paul Carrillo & Dina Pomeranz & Monica Singhal, 2017. "Dodging the Taxman: Firm Misreporting and Limits to Tax Enforcement," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 9(2), pages 144-164, April.
    20. Alan T. Peacock & Jack Wiseman, 1961. "The Growth of Public Expenditure in the United Kingdom," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number peac61-1.
    21. Toke Aidt & Peter Jensen, 2009. "Tax structure, size of government, and the extension of the voting franchise in Western Europe, 1860–1938," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 16(3), pages 362-394, June.
    22. 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.
    23. Joel Slemrod, 2007. "Cheating Ourselves: The Economics of Tax Evasion," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(1), pages 25-48, Winter.
    24. Peltzman, Sam, 1980. "The Growth of Government," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 23(2), pages 209-287, October.
    25. Peter Lindert, 2004. "Social Spending and Economic Growth," Challenge, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 47(4), pages 6-16.
    26. Nicky J. Welton & Howard H. Z. Thom, 2015. "Value of Information," Medical Decision Making, , vol. 35(5), pages 564-566, July.
    27. Kong-Pin Chen & C.Y. Cyrus Chu, 2005. "Internal Control vs. External Manipulation: A Model of Corporate Income Tax Evasion," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 36(4), pages 151-164, Winter.
    28. Winer, Stanley L. & Hettich, Walter, 1991. "Debt and tariffs : An empirical investigation of the evolution of revenue systems," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 45(2), pages 215-242, July.
    29. Áureo de Paula & Jose A. Scheinkman, 2010. "Value-Added Taxes, Chain Effects, and Informality," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(4), pages 195-221, October.
    30. Dharmapala, Dhammika & Slemrod, Joel & Wilson, John Douglas, 2011. "Tax policy and the missing middle: Optimal tax remittance with firm-level administrative costs," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(9-10), pages 1036-1047, October.
    31. Wojciech Kopczuk & Joel Slemrod, 2006. "Putting Firms into Optimal Tax Theory," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(2), pages 130-134, May.
    32. 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.
    33. Peltzman, Sam, 1980. "The Growth of Government," Working Papers 1, The University of Chicago Booth School of Business, George J. Stigler Center for the Study of the Economy and the State.
    34. Henrik Jacobsen Kleven, 2014. "How Can Scandinavians Tax So Much?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 28(4), pages 77-98, Fall.
    35. Bayer, Ralph & Cowell, Frank, 2009. "Tax compliance and firms' strategic interdependence," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(11-12), pages 1131-1143, December.
    36. Slemrod, Joel, 2004. "The Economics of Corporate Tax Selfishness," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 57(4), pages 877-899, December.
    37. Keen, Michael, 2008. "VAT, tariffs, and withholding: Border taxes and informality in developing countries," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(10-11), pages 1892-1906, October.
    38. 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.
    39. Lawrence Kenny & Stanley Winer, 2006. "Tax Systems in the World: An Empirical Investigation into the Importance of Tax Bases, Administration Costs, Scale and Political Regime," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 13(2), pages 181-215, May.
    40. James Kau & Paul Rubin, 1981. "The size of government," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 37(2), pages 261-274, January.
    41. Kleven, Henrik Jacobsen, 2014. "How can Scandinavians tax so much?," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 66111, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Joana Naritomi, 2019. "Consumers as Tax Auditors," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 109(9), pages 3031-3072, September.
    2. Michael Carlos Best & Anne Brockmeyer & Henrik Jacobsen Kleven & Johannes Spinnewijn & Mazhar Waseem, 2015. "Production versus Revenue Efficiency with Limited Tax Capacity: Theory and Evidence from Pakistan," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 123(6), pages 1311-1355.
    3. Gadenne, Lucie & Nandi, Tushar K. & Rathelot, Roland, 2019. "Taxation and Supplier Networks : Evidence from India," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 1208, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
    4. Lucie Gadenne & Tushar Nandi & Roland Rathelot, 2019. "Taxation and Supplier Networks: Evidence from India," IFS Working Papers W19/21, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
    5. James Alm, 2019. "What Motivates Tax Compliance?," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 33(2), pages 353-388, April.
    6. Arbex, Marcelo Aarestru & Mattos, Enlinson, 2020. "Limited tax capacity and the optimal taxation of firms," Textos para discussão 539, FGV EESP - Escola de Economia de São Paulo, Fundação Getulio Vargas (Brazil).
    7. Bachas, Pierre & Gadenne, Lucie & Jensen, Anders, 2020. "Informality, Consumption Taxes and Redistribution," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 1277, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
    8. Paul Carrillo & Dina Pomeranz & Monica Singhal, 2017. "Dodging the Taxman: Firm Misreporting and Limits to Tax Enforcement," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 9(2), pages 144-164, April.
    9. Lucie Gadenne, 2020. "Can Rationing Increase Welfare? Theory and an Application to India's Ration Shop System," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 12(4), pages 144-177, November.
    10. Joel Slemrod, 2007. "Cheating Ourselves: The Economics of Tax Evasion," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(1), pages 25-48, Winter.
    11. Best, Michael & Brockmeyer, Anne & Kleven, Henrik & Spinnewijn, Johannes & Waseem, Mazhar, 2013. "Production vs Revenue Efficiency With Limited Tax Capacity: Theory and Evidence From Pakistan," CEPR Discussion Papers 9717, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    12. Hoseini, Mohammad, 2015. "Value-Addes Tax and Shadow Economy : the Role of Input-Output Linkages (revision of CentER Discussion Paper 2013-036)," Other publications TiSEM 56358907-5e47-49f6-9a74-f, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.
    13. Gadenne, Lucie, 2018. "Do Ration Shop Systems Increase Welfare? Theory and an Application to India," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 1149, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
    14. Stefanos A. Tsikas, 2020. "Enforce taxes, but cautiously: societal implications of the slippery slope framework," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 50(1), pages 149-170, August.
    15. André Seidel & Marcel Thum, 2016. "Tax Evasion, Corruption and Market Entry," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 63(4), pages 377-398, September.
    16. Dina Pomeranz & José Vila-Belda, 2019. "Taking State-Capacity Research to the Field: Insights from Collaborations with Tax Authorities," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 11(1), pages 755-781, August.
    17. Todd Kumler & Eric Verhoogen & Judith Frías, 2020. "Enlisting Employees in Improving Payroll Tax Compliance: Evidence from Mexico," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 102(5), pages 881-896, December.
    18. Lucie Gadenne, 2017. "Tax Me, but Spend Wisely? Sources of Public Finance and Government Accountability," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 9(1), pages 274-314, January.
    19. Mazhar Waseem, 2019. "Information, Asymmetric Incentives, or Withholding? Understanding the Self-Enforcement of Value-Added Tax," CESifo Working Paper Series 7736, CESifo.
    20. Guo, Jang-Ting & Hung, Fu-Sheng, 2020. "Tax evasion and financial development under asymmetric information in credit markets," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 145(C).

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H11 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • H20 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - General

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15218. 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: . General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/nberrus.html .

    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 CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc 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 RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (email available below). General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/nberrus.html .

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

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.