Myth and Reality of Flat Tax Reform: Micro Estimates of Tax Evasion Response and Welfare Effects in Russia
Using micro-level data, we examine the effects of Russia's 2001 flat rate income tax reform on consumption, income, and tax evasion. We use the gap between household expenditures and reported earnings as a proxy for tax evasion with data from a household panel for 1998-2004. Utilizing difference-in-difference and regression-discontinuity-type approaches, we find that large and significant changes in tax evasion following the flat tax reform are associated with changes in voluntary compliance and cannot be explained by changes in tax enforcement policies. We also find the productivity response of taxpayers to the flat tax reform is small relative to the tax evasion response. Finally, we develop a feasible framework to assess the deadweight loss from personal income tax in the presence of tax evasion based on the consumption response to tax changes. We show that because of the strong tax evasion response the efficiency gain from the Russian flat tax reform is at least 30% smaller than the gain implied by conventional approaches.
The authors would like to thank Alan Auerbach, Raj Chetty, John Earle, Brian Erard, Caroline Hoxby, Patrick Kline, Emmanuel Saez, and seminar participants at Stanford University, the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, and the Kyiv School of Economics and the participants at the AYSPS conference "Tax Compliance and Tax Evasion" in Atlanta, GA for useful comments. We are also thankful to Ben Miller for research assistance. Sabirianova Peter acknowledges the research support from the National Council for Eurasian and East European Research and research initiation grant from Georgia State University. The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Yuriy Gorodnichenko & Jorge Martinez-Vazquez & Klara Sabirianova Peter, 2009. "Myth and Reality of Flat Tax Reform: Micro Estimates of Tax Evasion Response and Welfare Effects in Russia," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 117(3), pages 504-554, 06. citation courtesy of