Puzzling Tax Structures in Developing Countries: A Comparison of Two Alternative Explanations

40 Pages Posted: 7 Dec 2005 Last revised: 27 Jul 2009

See all articles by Roger H. Gordon

Roger H. Gordon

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Economics; Harvard University - Department of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Wei Li

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Date Written: October 2005

Abstract

Observed economic policies in developing countries differ sharply both from those observed among developed countries and from those forecast by existing models of optimal policies. For example, developing countries rely little on broad-based taxes, and make substantial use of tariffs and seignorage as nontax sources of revenue.The objective of this paper is to contrast the implications of two models designed to explain such anomalous policies. One approach, by Gordon-Li (2005), focuses on the greater difficulties faced in poor countries in monitoring taxable activity, and explores the best available policies given such difficulties. The other, building on Grossman-Helpman (1994), presumes that political-economy problems in developing countries are worse, leading to worse policy choices. The paper compares the contrasting theoretical implications of the two models with the data, and finds that the political-economy approach does poorly in reconciling many aspects of the data with the theory. In contrast, the forecasts from Gordon-Li model are largely consistent with the data currently available.

Suggested Citation

Gordon, Roger H. and Li, Wei, Puzzling Tax Structures in Developing Countries: A Comparison of Two Alternative Explanations (October 2005). NBER Working Paper No. w11661. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=819822

Roger H. Gordon (Contact Author)

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Economics ( email )

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Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

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Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

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United Kingdom

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Cambridge, MA 02138
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Wei Li

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States
804-243-7691 (Phone)
804-243-7681 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.darden.virginia.edu/faculty/li.htm

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

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