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Does it pay firms to register for taxes ? the impact of formality on firm profitability

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  • McKenzie, David
  • Sakho, Yaye Seynabou

Abstract

This paper estimates the impact of registering for taxes on firm profits in Bolivia, the country with the highest levels of informality in Latin America. A new survey of micro and small firms enables the authors to control for a rich set of measures of owner ability and business motivations that can affect both profits and the decision to formalize. The paper identifies the impact of tax registration on business profitability using the distance of a firm from the tax office where registration occurs, conditional on the distance to the city center, as an instrument for registration. Proximity to the tax office provides firms with more information about registration, but is argued to not directly affect profits. The findings show that tax registration leads to significantly higher profits for the firms that the instrument affects. However, there is also evidence of heterogeneous effects of tax formality on profits. Tax registration is found to increase profits for the mid-size firms in the sample, but to lower profits for both the smaller and larger firms, in contrast to the standard view that formality increases profits. The analysis shows that owners of large firms who have managed to stay informal have higher entrepreneurial ability than formal firm owners, in contrast to the standard view (correct among smaller firms) that informal firm owners have low ability.

Suggested Citation

  • McKenzie, David & Sakho, Yaye Seynabou, 2007. "Does it pay firms to register for taxes ? the impact of formality on firm profitability," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4449, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:4449
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Miriam Bruhn, 2011. "License to Sell: The Effect of Business Registration Reform on Entrepreneurial Activity in Mexico," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 93(1), pages 382-386, February.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Microfinance; Debt Markets; Transport Economics Policy&Planning; Taxation&Subsidies; E-Business;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • O17 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Formal and Informal Sectors; Shadow Economy; Institutional Arrangements
    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • D21 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Firm Behavior: Theory

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