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Equity and Efficiency in Tax Reform in Developing Countries

Joseph E. Stiglitz

Columbia Business School - Finance and Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

M. Shahe Emran

George Washington University - Department of Economics

July 2007

This paper provides a critical analysis of the current consensus on tax reform in developing countries in terms of both efficiency and equity objectives. Drawing on the recent theoretical advances it shows that the emphasis on value-added tax (VAT) as the main instrument for indirect taxation is likely to result in inefficiency in resource allocation due to production and consumption substitutions in favor of the informal/shadow economy. Such a reform can also have adverse effects on the long-run growth as a small formal sector reduces the scope for technological progress in the economy. Imposition of VAT may also retard the development of markets, especially in the rural areas. The tax reform policies implemented in a large number of developing countries that reduce the tariff and shifts the burden of raising revenue to VAT are also likely to be undesirable in terms of equity. The available evidence shows that the current emphasis on uniform VAT is especially regressive. The prevalence of corruption in tax administration is likely to make the incidence of tax reform more inequitable as compliance with VAT is information-intensive, and thus it places the poor in a disadvantage in the bargaining against a corrupt tax collector given their lack of education and record-keeping.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 42

Keywords: Tax Reform, VAT, Trade Taxes, Efficiency, Equity

JEL Classification: O1, H20, F13

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Date posted: July 21, 2007  

Suggested Citation

Stiglitz, Joseph E. and Shahe Emran, M., Equity and Efficiency in Tax Reform in Developing Countries (July 2007). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1001269 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1001269

Contact Information

Joseph E. Stiglitz (Contact Author)
Columbia Business School - Finance and Economics ( email )
3022 Broadway
814 Uris Hall
New York, NY 10027
United States
(212) 854-0671 (Phone)
(212) 662-8474 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://www.josephstiglitz.com
National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )
1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
M. Shahe Emran
George Washington University - Department of Economics ( email )
2115 G Street NW
302 Monroe Hall
Washington, DC 20052
United States
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References:  49
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