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Welfare Effects of Indirect Tax Policies in West Africa

Bart Capéau, Alain Babatoundé and Romain Houssa

No 2023-019, Working Papers ECARES from ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles

Abstract: In West Africa, the Value Added Tax (VAT) policy consists of a standard tax rate, but several items are exempted. We provide an optimal tax framework to reflect on the welfare effects of such a tariff structure, in the context of current debates on domestic resource mobilisation in low-income countries (LICs). Our analysis includes the distinguishing feature that a significant part of the consumption goods in LICs stems from own production, and can therefore not be taxed. We also account for preference heterogeneity over market goods and auto-consumption. A preference consistent individual welfare measure is used. Individual welfare levels are aggregated by social welfare functions with different degrees of inequality aversion. In this setting, we show that a uniform tax rate on all market goods is not optimal, even in the absence of inequality aversion. An application with household data from Benin supports reforms for alternative welfare improving VAT rate structures. In comparison to the current VAT policy, our reforms yield higher average relative welfare gains for the lower deciles. Due to preferences heterogeneity, however, we find winners and losers in all welfare deciles. We develop a bootstrap procedure to construct confidence intervals on welfare indicators.

Keywords: Africa; Value Added Tax (VAT); Optimal taxation; Taste heterogeneity; Domestic (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 77 p.
Date: 2023-11
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-acc, nep-pbe and nep-pub
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