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Evidence on the Responsiveness of Export-Related VAT Evasion to VAT Rates in the EU

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Abstract

In almost all countries that operate a value-added tax (VAT), the VAT "zero-rates" exports, meaning that exporting firms can claim credit for VAT on their inputs, but pay no VAT on sales of exports. This is necessary when the goal is to make the base of the tax domestic consumption. A consequence is that firms can reduce their tax burdens by misreporting some of their sales to domestic consumers as exports. In principle, reported exports from country i to country j should match up with reported imports into country j from country i, except for measurement errors, and costs of insurance and freight that are included in import value but not export value. VAT evasion can be another source of discrepancy which would tend to cause reported exports to exceed reported imports for trade flows in the same direction. We use data on such discrepancies in trade flows between pairs of European Union member countries during 1984 through 2011 to infer whether higher VAT rates are associated with greater over-reporting of exports. A difference-in-differences identification strategy, exploiting the fact that VAT rates changed in different ways over time in different countries, suggests that each percentage point increase in the exporting country's standard VAT rate increases the discrepancy of exports over imports by about 1.1 percent of exports. For the typical EU-15 country, this implies that at the margin, about 15 percent of the static revenue gain from a VAT rate increase would be lost due to this particular channel for VAT evasion.

Suggested Citation

  • Jon Bakija & Ivan Badinski, 2014. "Evidence on the Responsiveness of Export-Related VAT Evasion to VAT Rates in the EU," Department of Economics Working Papers 2014-06, Department of Economics, Williams College.
  • Handle: RePEc:wil:wileco:2014-06
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Keywords

    value added tax; exports; evasion;

    JEL classification:

    • H2 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue
    • H26 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Tax Evasion and Avoidance

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