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Optimal Tax Design and Enforcement with an Informal Sector

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Abstract:

An optimal commodity tax approach is taken to compare trade taxes and VATs when some commodities are produced informally. Trade taxes apply to all imports and exports, including intermediate goods, while the VAT applies only to sales by the formal sector and imports. The VAT achieves production efficiency within the formal sector, but, unlike trade taxes, cannot indirectly tax profits. Making the size of the informal sector endogenous in each regime is potentially decisive. The ability of the government to change the size of the informal sector through costly enforcement may also tip the balance in favor of the VAT.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1257/pol.1.1.1

Publication date: February 1, 2009

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  • American Economic Journal: Economic Policy publishes papers covering a range of topics, the common theme being the role of economic policy in economic outcomes. Subject areas include public economics; urban and regional economics; public policy aspects of health, education, welfare and political institutions; law and economics; economic regulation; and environmental and natural resource economics.
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