Tax Effects on Work Activity, Industry Mix and Shadow Economy Size: Evidence from Rich-Country Comparisons

70 Pages Posted: 13 Oct 2004 Last revised: 20 Sep 2010

See all articles by Steven J. Davis

Steven J. Davis

University of Chicago; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Magnus Henrekson

Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: May 2004

Abstract

Guided by a simple theory of task assignment and time allocation, we investigate the long run response to national differences in tax rates on labor income, payrolls and consumption. The theory implies that higher tax rates reduce work time in the market sector, increase the size of the shadow economy, alter the industry mix of market activity, and twist labor demand in a way that amplifies negative effects on market work and concentrates effects on the less skilled. We also describe conditions whereby cross-country OLS regressions yield unbiased estimates of the total effect of taxes, inclusive of indirect effects that work through government spending responses to tax revenues. Regressions on rich-country samples in the mid 1990s indicate that a unit standard deviation tax rate difference of 12.8 percentage points leads to 122 fewer market work hours per adult per year, a drop of 4.9 percentage points in the employment-population ratio, and a rise in the shadow economy equal to 3.8 percent of GDP. It also leads to 10 to 30 percent lower employment and value added shares in (a) retail trade and repairs, (b) eating, drinking and lodging, and (c) a broader industry group that includes wholesale and motor trade.

Suggested Citation

Davis, Steven J. and Henrekson, Magnus, Tax Effects on Work Activity, Industry Mix and Shadow Economy Size: Evidence from Rich-Country Comparisons (May 2004). NBER Working Paper No. w10509. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=552305

Steven J. Davis (Contact Author)

University of Chicago ( email )

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Magnus Henrekson

Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN) ( email )

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