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On the Effect of the Costs of Operating Formally: New Experimental Evidence

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  • Sebastian Galiani
  • Marcela Meléndez
  • Camila Navajas

Abstract

This paper analyzes the impact of the elimination of the initial fixed costs of registration on the decision of informal firms to operate formally in Bogotá, Colombia. The Chamber of Commerce of Bogotá (CCB) conducts workshops for prospective formal-sector entrants and arranges personalized meetings for them with CCB agents. The CCB’s decision to significantly reduce the transaction costs of registration and the entry into force of Act No. 1429 of 2010, which eliminated the costs of the initial procedure for registering as a formal enterprise and provided exemptions from relevant taxes during the first years after formalization, provided us with an ideal experiment for studying how the elimination of the initial fixed costs of formalization would influence firms’ decision to operate formally or not. We obtained two important results. First, while a workshop treatment had no effect on firms’ formalization decisions, meetings at the firm with CCB agents raised the likelihood that a business would begin to operate formally by 5.5 percentage points for all the firms that were invited, at random, to participate in this arm of the intervention and by 32 percentage points for the firms that accepted the invitation. Second, the effect on the treatment firms did not persist over time. After a year of formal operation, it disappeared. These results indicate that substantial reductions in the fixed costs of operating formally are not effective in formalization choices, since such reductions had no lasting effect on formalization decisions.

Suggested Citation

  • Sebastian Galiani & Marcela Meléndez & Camila Navajas, 2015. "On the Effect of the Costs of Operating Formally: New Experimental Evidence," NBER Working Papers 21292, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:21292
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    2. Jessen, Jonas & Kluve, Jochen, 2021. "The effectiveness of interventions to reduce informality in low- and middle-income countries," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 138(C).
    3. Arruã‘Ada, Benito, 2017. "Property as sequential exchange: the forgotten limits of private contract," Journal of Institutional Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 13(4), pages 753-783, December.
    4. Rothenberg, Alexander D. & Gaduh, Arya & Burger, Nicholas E. & Chazali, Charina & Tjandraningsih, Indrasari & Radikun, Rini & Sutera, Cole & Weilant, Sarah, 2016. "Rethinking Indonesia’s Informal Sector," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 80(C), pages 96-113.
    5. Floridi, A. & Demena, B.A. & Wagner, N., 2019. "Shedding light on the shadows of informality," ISS Working Papers - General Series 642, International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam (ISS), The Hague.
    6. Brian McCaig & Jordan Nanowski, 2019. "Business Formalisation in Vietnam," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 55(5), pages 805-821, May.
    7. Zucco, Cesar & Lenz, Anna-Katharina & Goldszmidt, Rafael & Valdivia, Martin, 2020. "Face-to-face vs. virtual assistance to entrepreneurs: Evidence from a field experiment in Brazil," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 188(C).
    8. Sarah Xue Dong & Dewi Meisari & Banu Rinaldi, 2021. "Out of the shadow: Encouraging online registration of micro and small businesses through a randomized controlled trial," Departmental Working Papers 2021-05, The Australian National University, Arndt-Corden Department of Economics.
    9. Benhassine, Najy & McKenzie, David & Pouliquen, Victor & Santini, Massimiliano, 2018. "Does inducing informal firms to formalize make sense? Experimental evidence from Benin," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 157(C), pages 1-14.
    10. Azuara Herrera, Oliver & Azuero, Rodrigo & Bosch, Mariano & Torres, Jesica, 2019. "Special Tax Regimes in Latin America and the Caribbean: Compliance, Social Protection, and Resource Misallocation," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 9511, Inter-American Development Bank.
    11. Giuseppe Danese, 2017. "One man’s trash is another man’s treasure: A comparative analysis of property rights in solid waste," Working Papers de Economia (Economics Working Papers) 02, Católica Porto Business School, Universidade Católica Portuguesa.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J21 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Force and Employment, Size, and Structure
    • J46 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Informal Labor Market

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