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Essays in public finance

Jensen, Anders (2016) Essays in public finance. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis explores the determinants of tax evasion and their implications for tax policy, with a special focus on taxation in developing countries. Chapter 1 studies how the transition from self-employment to employee-jobs over the long run of development explains the rise of the modern tax system. I construct a new microdataset, covering 90 countries at all levels of development today and 140 years within the US between 1870 and 2010. Using these data, I provide new stylized facts: within country, the share of employees increases over the income distribution, and increases at all levels of income as a country develops; 2) the income tax exemption threshold moves down the income distribution as a country develops tracking employee growth. I provide a causal estimate of the impact of employee-share on the exemption threshold and on tax revenue, by studying a state-led development program which was implemented across US states in the 1950s-60s. I find that the exogenous increase in employee share is associated with a lower state income tax threshold and higher revenue. Chapter 2 studies individual and social motives in tax evasion. We build a dynamic model that incorporates these motives, their interactions, and where social motives underpin the role of norms. Our empirical analysis exploits the adoption in 1990 of a poll tax to fund local government in the UK, which led to widespread evasion, and a series of natural experiments due to narrow election outcomes, which induce shifts into single-majority local governments and lead to more vigorous enforcement of local taxes. The econometric results are consistent with the model’s main predictions on the dynamics of evasion. Chapter 3 studies the impact of access to formal finance and firm size on tax inspection and tax compliance. We use firm-level data on 108,000 firms across 79 countries in the World Bank Enterprise Surveys. We instrument for finance and firm size at the industry-level using an out of sample extrapolation strategy related. We find a large and positive effect of firm size on both tax inspection and sales tax compliance, but no overall significant impact of reliance on external finance.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2016 Anders Ditlev Jensen
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
Sets: Departments > Economics
Supervisor: Kleven, Henrik Jacobsen

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