nep-iue New Economics Papers
on Informal and Underground Economics
Issue of 2022‒10‒10
five papers chosen by
Catalina Granda Carvajal
Universidad de Antioquia

  1. Do Tax Policies Discriminate Against Female Traders? A Gender Framework to Study Informal Marketplaces in Nigeria By Akpan, Imaobong; Cascant-Sempere, Ma Josep
  2. Mobile Money Taxation and Informal Workers: Evidence from Ghana’s E-Levy By Akua Anyidoho, Nana; Gallien, Max; Rogan, Mike; van den Boogaard, Vanessa
  3. Unpacking ‘Tax Morale’: Distinguishing Between Conditional and Unconditional Views of Tax Compliance By Prichard, Wilson
  4. Income Tax Payers Are Not All the Same – A Behavioral Letter Experiment in Eswatini By Santoro, Fabrizio
  5. New gig work or changes in reporting?: Understanding self-employment trends in tax data By Andrew Garin; Emilie Jackson; Dmitri Koustas

  1. By: Akpan, Imaobong; Cascant-Sempere, Ma Josep
    Abstract: Scholars have long debated formalizing the informal sector through taxation, but how do these processes affect gender inequalities? Our study in Nigerian markets contributes a gender framework to the equitable taxation literature on formalization. The study draws on a survey of 451 traders in 12 markets, key informant interviews, and ethnographic research in four markets of two states. We find that in at least two situations taxation policies discriminated against women implicitly: (1) male tax collectors had higher incidences of harassment on all traders and (2) taxing traders with flat taxes penalized women, as they earned less than men but were taxed the same.
    Keywords: Finance, Gender,
    Date: 2022
  2. By: Akua Anyidoho, Nana; Gallien, Max; Rogan, Mike; van den Boogaard, Vanessa
    Abstract: The use of digital financial services, including money transfers and mobile money, have expanded widely in lower-income countries in the past decade; 47 per cent of the population of sub-Saharan Africa (548 million) had a registered mobile money account in 2020, with 29 per cent of those accounts representing active users (Andersson-Manjang and Naghavi 2021: 8). Among lower-income countries for which data is available, the average number of mobile money accounts is more than double the number of commercial bank accounts. In many lower-middle-income countries, mobile money usage is the same or more than commercial bank usage (Bazarbash et al. 2020). Alongside this growth, governments have increasingly sought to tax DFS, rooted in deeper discussions about the role that technology can play in increasing tax revenue and strengthening overall state capacity (Fan et al. 2020; Okunogbe and Santoro 2021). While capturing revenue from DFS can come from many sources, mobile money taxes in particular have often been introduced due to the untapped revenue potential and the relatively convenient and easy nature of the tax handle (Lees and Akol 2021a) – particularly in relation to, say, corporate income taxes on financial service providers. As noted above, the search for revenue is often closely linked to a desire to capture revenue from workers in the informal economy, who are often framed as tax evaders.
    Keywords: Finance, Work and Labour,
    Date: 2022
  3. By: Prichard, Wilson
    Abstract: The past decade has witnessed a surge in international interest in the importance of tax morale. This is often defined, broadly, as taxpayer’s ‘non-pecuniary motivations for tax compliance’ (Luttmer and Singhal 2014: 150) – as a key component of strategies for strengthening tax compliance in lower-income countries. Whereas classic models of tax compliance focused on the importance of the threat of enforcement and the cost of compliance in shaping compliance, compliance decisions are also significantly shaped by non-pecuniary motivations. They can, for example, be an intrinsic commitment to paying taxes, expectations of reciprocity from government, or broader social norms. This has been reflected in growing interest in strategies for strengthening tax morale in order to encourage quasi-voluntary tax compliance (Prichard et al. 2019). A significant part of this literature has relied on surveys to measure taxpayer attitudes towards tax compliance (tax morale), and, in turn, to identify factors associated with higher or lower levels of reported tax morale.
    Keywords: Finance,
    Date: 2022
  4. By: Santoro, Fabrizio
    Abstract: Very little is known about why taxpayers in sub-Saharan Africa pay their taxes. This article reports results from a nationwide randomized controlled trial in Eswatini, nudging more than 20,000 income tax payers with behaviorally-informed mailings, building on deterrence, facilitation, and trust paradigms. This study is the first to target three different categories of taxpayers at the same time – non-filers, nil-filers and active filers, and targets both companies and individual taxpayers. Most of the literature focuses on active filers. The results show that nudging is very effective with non-filers, especially when controlling for actual collection of the letter – any mailing increases the probability of filing by 1.7 percentage points (p.p.), or 20 percent of the control group mean. Deterrence is particularly effective for non-filing companies – increasing filing by 3.9 p.p., whereas individuals react more to an instructional nudge. Conversely, nil-filers do not respond to a nudge. A trust-based mailing had the opposite of the intended effect with active taxpayers, but they are less likely to nil-file when nudged.
    Keywords: Finance,
    Date: 2022
  5. By: Andrew Garin; Emilie Jackson; Dmitri Koustas
    Abstract: Rising self-employment rates in U.S. tax data that are absent in survey data have led to speculation that tax records capture a rise in new “gig” work that surveys miss. Drawing on the universe of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax returns, we show that trends in firm-reported payments to “gig” and other contract workers do not explain the rise in self-employment reported to the IRS; rather, that increase is driven by self-reported earnings of individuals in the EITC phase-in range. We isolate pure reporting responses from real labor supply responses by examining births of workers’ first children around an end-of-year cutoff for credit eligibility that creates exogenous variation in tax rates at the end of the tax year after labor supply decisions are already sunk. We find that exposing workers with sunk labor supply to negative marginal tax rates results in large increases in their propensity to self-report self-employment—only a small minority of which leads to bunching at kink-points. Consistent with pure strategic reporting behavior, we find no impact on reporting among taxpayers with no incentive to report additional income and no effects on firm-reported payments of any kind. Moreover, we find these reporting responses have grown over time as knowledge of tax incentives has become widespread. Quantitatively, our results suggest that as much as 59 percent of the growth in self-employment rates, and all counter-cyclicality, can be attributed to changes in reporting behavior that are independent of changes in the nature of work. Our findings suggest caution is warranted before deferring to administrative data over survey data when measuring labor market trends.
    JEL: H31 J21 H26
    Date: 2022–09–23

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