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Institutions, Corruption and Tax Evasion in the Unofficial Economy

  • Douglas Hibbs

    (Göteborg University)

  • Violeta Piculescu

    (Göteborg University)

In this paper we propose a model of how institutional benefits, taxation and government regulations affect the productive activity of private enterprises. We consider an environment in which public officials enforcing tax and regulatory obligations are potentially corruptible, and markets for corruption may therefore arise that give firms the option of producing unofficially and evading taxes and regulations. By contrast to some previous studies that view corruption and bribery as forces driving firms out of official production into the underground economy, our model features the idea that the `grabbing hands' of corrupt bureaucrats may alternatively serve as `helping hands' allowing firms to exploit profitable opportunities in the unofficial sector. And contrary to a traditional view maintaining that high tax rates are intrinsically a major cause of large shadow economies, our model implies that incentives to evade taxation and produce underground depend on statutory tax rates relative to firm-specific thresholds of tax toleration. Tax toleration is determined, among other things, by firm-specific institutional benefits available to official producers and the costs of corruption required to produce unofficially. Some core predictions of the model concerning the determinants of tax toleration and the relative size of unofficial activity and tax evasion receive broad support from empirical analyses based on firm-level data from the World Business Environment Surveys sponsored by the World Bank.

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Paper provided by EconWPA in its series Public Economics with number 0508003.

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Length: 30 pages
Date of creation: 05 Aug 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwppe:0508003
Note: Type of Document - pdf; pages: 30
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://econwpa.repec.org

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  1. Loayza, Norman A., 1997. "The economics of the informal sector : a simple model and some empirical evidence from Latin America," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1727, The World Bank.
  2. Simon Johnson & John McMillan, 2002. "Courts and Relational Contracts," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 18(1), pages 221-277, April.
  3. Johnson, Simon & Kaufmann, Daniel & Zoido-Lobaton, Pablo, 1998. "Regulatory Discretion and the Unofficial Economy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(2), pages 387-92, May.
  4. Jain, Arvind K, 2001. " Corruption: A Review," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 15(1), pages 71-121, February.
  5. Simon Johnson & Daniel Kaufmann & John McMillan & Christopher Woodruff, 2003. "Why Do Firms Hide? Bribes and Unofficial Activity after Communism," Public Economics 0308004, EconWPA.
  6. Svensson, Jakob, 2000. "Who must pay bribes and how much? Evidence from a cross-section of firms," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2486, The World Bank.
  7. Mookherjee, Dilip & Png, I P L, 1995. "Corruptible Law Enforcers: How Should They Be Compensated?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 105(428), pages 145-59, January.
  8. Choi, Jay Pil & Thum, Marcel, 2003. "Corruption and the shadow economy," Dresden Discussion Paper Series in Economics 02/03, Dresden University of Technology, Faculty of Business and Economics, Department of Economics.
  9. Friedrich Schneider & Robert Klinglmair, 2004. "Shadow economies around the world: what do we know?," Economics working papers 2004-03, Department of Economics, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria.
  10. 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.
  11. Pranab Bardhan, 1997. "Corruption and Development: A Review of Issues," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 35(3), pages 1320-1346, September.
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