IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/pra/mprapa/34781.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

America’s unreported economy: measuring the size, growth and determinants of income tax evasion in the U.S

Author

Listed:
  • Feige, Edgar L.
  • Cebula, Richard

Abstract

Abstract This study empirically investigates the extent of noncompliance with the tax code and examines the determinants of federal income tax evasion in the U.S. Employing a refined version of Feige’s (1986; 1989) General Currency Ratio (GCR) model to estimate a time series of unreported income as our measure of tax evasion, we find that 18-23 % of total reportable income may not properly be reported to the IRS. This gives rise to a 2009 “tax gap” in the range of $390-$537 billion. As regards the determinants of tax noncompliance, we find that federal income tax evasion is an increasing function of the average effective federal income tax rate, the unemployment rate, the nominal interest rate, and per capita real GDP, and a decreasing function of the IRS audit rate. Despite important refinements of the traditional currency ratio approach for estimating the aggregate size and growth of unreported economies, we conclude that the sensitivity of the results to different benchmarks, imperfect data sources and alternative specifying assumptions precludes obtaining results of sufficient accuracy and reliability to serve as effective policy guides.

Suggested Citation

  • Feige, Edgar L. & Cebula, Richard, 2011. "America’s unreported economy: measuring the size, growth and determinants of income tax evasion in the U.S," MPRA Paper 34781, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:34781
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: https://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/34781/1/MPRA_paper_34781.pdf
    File Function: original version
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Edgar L. Feige, 1986. "A Re-Examination of the "Underground Economy" in the United States: A Comment on Tanzi," IMF Staff Papers, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 33(4), pages 768-781, December.
    2. Frank A. Cowell, 1990. "Cheating the Government: The Economics of Evasion," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262532484, March.
    3. Attiat Ott & Sheila Vegari, 2003. "Tax reform: Chasing the elusive dream," Atlantic Economic Journal, Springer;International Atlantic Economic Society, vol. 31(3), pages 266-282, September.
    4. Pestieau, Pierre & Possen, Uri & Slutsky, Steve, 1994. "Optimal Differential Taxes and Penalties," Public Finance = Finances publiques, , vol. 49(Supplemen), pages 15-27.
    5. James Andreoni & Brian Erard & Jonathan Feinstein, 1998. "Tax Compliance," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(2), pages 818-860, June.
    6. Cebula, Richard J. & Coombs, Christopher & Yang, Bill Z., 2009. "The Tax Reform Act of 1986: An Assessment in Terms of Tax Compliance Behavior," Economia Internazionale / International Economics, Camera di Commercio Industria Artigianato Agricoltura di Genova, vol. 62(2), pages 145-162.
    7. Naomi E. Feldman & Joel Slemrod, 2007. "Estimating tax noncompliance with evidence from unaudited tax returns," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 117(518), pages 327-352, March.
    8. Edgar L. Feige, 2005. "Overseas Holdings Of U.S.Currency And The Underground Economy," Macroeconomics 0501022, EconWPA.
    9. Mukhtar Ali & H. Cecil & James Knoblett, 2001. "The effects of tax rates and enforcement policies on taxpayer compliance: A study of self-employed taxpayers," Atlantic Economic Journal, Springer;International Atlantic Economic Society, vol. 29(2), pages 186-202, June.
    10. Falkinger, Josef, 1988. "Tax Evasion and Equity: A Theoretical Analysis," Public Finance = Finances publiques, , vol. 43(3), pages 388-395.
    11. Feige, Edgar L., 2011. "New estimates of U.S. currency abroad, the domestic money supply and the unreported Economy," MPRA Paper 34778, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    12. Edgar L. Feige, 2004. "How Big IS the Irregular Economy?," Macroeconomics 0404005, EconWPA.
    13. Joel Slemrod, 2007. "Cheating Ourselves: The Economics of Tax Evasion," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(1), pages 25-48, Winter.
    14. Feige, Edgar L., 1990. "Defining and estimating underground and informal economies: The new institutional economics approach," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 18(7), pages 989-1002, July.
    15. Feige, Edgar L, 1994. "The Underground Economy and the Currency Enigma," Public Finance = Finances publiques, , vol. 49(Supplemen), pages 119-136.
    16. Vito Tanzi, 1983. "The Underground Economy in the United States: Annual Estimates, 1930-80 (L'économie clandestine aux Etats-Unis: estimations annuelles, 1930-80) (La "economía subterránea" de Estados Unido," IMF Staff Papers, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 30(2), pages 283-305, June.
    17. Trevor Breusch, 2006. "Size, Causes and Consequences of the Underground Economy: An International Perspective Edited by Christopher Bajada and Friedrich Schneider," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 82(259), pages 492-494, December.
    18. Feige, Edgar L. & Urban, Ivica, 2008. "Measuring underground (unobserved, non-observed, unrecorded) economies in transition countries: Can we trust GDP?," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 36(2), pages 287-306, June.
    19. Trevor Breusch, 2005. "Australia's Cash Economy: Are the Estimates Credible?," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 81(255), pages 394-403, December.
    20. Sandmo, Agnar, 2005. "The Theory of Tax Evasion: A Retrospective View," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 58(4), pages 643-663, December.
    21. Trevor Breusch, 2005. "Estimating the Underground Economy using MIMIC Models," Econometrics 0507003, EconWPA, revised 15 Dec 2005.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. How much tax evasion is there in the US?
      by Economic Logician in Economic Logic on 2011-12-05 21:22:00
    2. The New Yorker Discovers That Americans Are Hiding Money from Uncle Sam
      by J.D. Tuccille in Hit & Run blog on 2013-04-23 02:42:00

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. repec:cbu:jrnlec:y:2017:v:6:p:163-169 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Richard J. Cebula, 2014. "The underground economy in the U.S.A.: preliminary new evidence on the impact of income tax rates (and other factors) on aggregate tax evasion 1975-2008," PSL Quarterly Review, Economia civile, vol. 67(271), pages 451-481.
    3. Michael Pickhardt & Jordi Sardà, "undated". "Cash, Hoarding and the Underground Economy," Working Papers 201282, Institute of Spatial and Housing Economics, Munster Universitary.
    4. Bruno Chiarini & Maria Ferrara & Elisabetta Marzano, 2016. "Investment Shocks, Tax Evasion and the Consumption Puzzle: A DSGE Analysis with Financial Frictions," CESifo Working Paper Series 6015, CESifo Group Munich.
    5. Feige, Edgar L., 2011. "New estimates of U.S. currency abroad, the domestic money supply and the unreported Economy," MPRA Paper 34778, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. Choi, Eun-Young & Johnson, Thomas G., 2014. "Economic Impact of the Informal Childcare Sector in Kansas," Journal of Regional Analysis and Policy, Mid-Continent Regional Science Association, vol. 44(1).
    7. Nuno Trindade Magessi & Luis Antunes, 2015. "Risk Perception and Risk Attitude on a Tax Evasion Context," Central European Journal of Economic Modelling and Econometrics, CEJEME, vol. 7(3), pages 127-149, September.
    8. Cebula, Richard, 2013. "Effects of Economic Freedom, Regulatory Quality, and Taxation on Real Income," MPRA Paper 55421, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. Rosella Levaggi & Francesco Menoncin, 2016. "Dynamic tax evasion with audits based on visible consumption," Journal of Economics, Springer, vol. 119(2), pages 131-146, October.
    10. Alexei Izyumov & John Vahaly, 2014. "Rent-Based Exploitation: Top, Bottom and Horizontal," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 67(1), pages 74-81, February.
    11. Richard J. Cebula, 2014. "Where Has The Currency Gone? And Why? The Underground Economy And Personal Income Tax Evasion In The U.S., 1970-2008," Review of Economic Analysis, Rimini Centre for Economic Analysis, vol. 6(1), pages 36-52, June.
    12. Feige, Edgar L., 2012. "The myth of the “cashless society”: How much of America’s currency is overseas?," MPRA Paper 42169, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Unreported economy; Underground economy; tax evasion; tax gap; noncompliance; income tax evasion; currency demand approach; currency ratio models;

    JEL classification:

    • O17 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Formal and Informal Sectors; Shadow Economy; Institutional Arrangements
    • E52 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - Monetary Policy
    • E26 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Informal Economy; Underground Economy
    • H26 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Tax Evasion and Avoidance
    • E41 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Demand for Money

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Lists

    This item is featured on the following reading lists or Wikipedia pages:
    1. Economic Logic blog

    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:pra:mprapa:34781. 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: (Joachim Winter). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/vfmunde.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 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.

    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.