Addressing VAT Fraud in Developing Countries: The Tax Policy-Administration Symbiosis
(2019) Intertax 47/11, 950-967
24 Pages Posted: 14 Nov 2019 Last revised: 31 Jan 2020
Date Written: November 1, 2019
Tax administration is often perceived as separate from tax policy, and at best as the implementation of tax policy. The aim of this article is to highlight the necessary mutual dependence that exists between tax policy and administration, designated here as tax policy-administration symbiosis. It employs the case-study of VAT fraud in African countries, where this phenomenon is thought to be commonplace, to consider the range of anti-VAT fraud measures that have been installed in those developing contexts. It is argued that fighting this fraud requires a concerted approach that encompasses various twinned measures of both a legal/policy and administrative nature; in contrast, ad hoc measures, whether legal or administrative, are unlikely to yield as significant results. Specifically, it is defended that administrative measures which seek to enhance compliance are at their most effective when adopted in conjunction with, or in the context of, a legal system that has been designed to minimize the incidence of fraud. Conversely, whilst policy measures can significantly contribute to an increase in VAT compliance in developing countries – particularly through the introduction of a broad base – such measures will be most effective when adopted in conjunction with administrative measures that take into account the administrative constraints, as well as other social factors, that are often present in those settings. The article concludes by asserting that combating VAT fraud in developing countries requires recognition of the wider dynamics of the tax policy-administration symbiosis.
Keywords: tax fraud, tax policy, tax administration, VAT, developing countries
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