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Does Informality Deter Tax Progressivity?

Enrico Rubolino

Cahiers de Recherches Economiques du Département d'économie from Université de Lausanne, Faculté des HEC, Département d’économie

Abstract: In contexts with weak enforcement and widespread informality, the threat of tax evasion may constrain policy makers’ power to set tax policies optimally. This paper studies whether reducing informality by tackling tax evasion leads policy makers to increase statutory tax progressivity. I take advantage of an Italian policy that generated cross-municipality variation in the scope for tackling income and property tax evasion through stricter tax enforcement. Combining an event study design with municipality-level panel data on statutory tax rates, I show that the ability of the government to change the size of the informal sector tips the balance in favor of higher marginal tax rates for middle and top earners, lower for the poor. The tax hike was larger in places with higher pre-program inequality and where intrinsic tax compliance attitudes were weaker. As a result of larger tax collections, municipalities hired more workers and raised public spending. These results suggest that policies enforcing legal rules and payment of taxes have not only the power to foster tax capacity, but also to enhance the ability to pursue redistributive policies.

Keywords: tax evasion; informality; tax enforcement; local taxes; tax progressivity (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: H26 H71 H72 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 61 pp.
Date: 2022-04
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-eur, nep-iue, nep-pbe and nep-pub
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Persistent link: https://EconPapers.repec.org/RePEc:lau:crdeep:22.07

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