DP10603 | Dodging the Taxman: Firm Misreporting and Limits to Tax Enforcement

Publication Date

17/05/2015

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Abstract

Reducing tax evasion is a key priority for many governments, particularly in developing countries. A growing literature argues that cross-checks of taxpayer reports against third-party information are critical for effective tax enforcement. However, such cross-checks may have limited effectiveness if taxpayers can make offsetting adjustments on other margins. We present a simple framework demonstrating conditions under which this occurs and empirical evidence from a natural experiment in Ecuador. When firms are notified about detected revenue discrepancies, they increase reported revenues - but also reported costs (by 96 cents per dollar of revenue adjustment), resulting in minor increases in tax collection.