Optimal Taxation in an Informal Economy
Informality is a widespread phenomenon in developing economies with negativeconsequences on productivity and inequality. Several policies have been implementedto decrease informality such as decreasing corporate tax rates for small businesses, tomake formality more attractive, or reducing payroll taxes to promote formal employ-ment. However, these policies introduce a new set of distortions and is not clear thatintroducing them is optimal. Although the theory of optimal taxation in an economyhas been widely studied in economics, the informal economy has been largely ignoredin this literature. In this paper, we fill this gap by developing a theory of optimal tax-ation in an economy with an informal sector. We construct a novel dataset combininga census of formal and informal businesses in Peru, administrative records from taxauthorities and the national household survey in the country, which allow us to get aunique characterization of the informal economy that we use to quantify the welfaregains from imposing the optimal tax scheme in this economy.
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