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Title: Have Developing Countries been Seeking to Minimize Welfare Cost of Taxation? Evidence from Barro’s Tax Smoothing Hypothesis
Keywords: Social sciences
Issue Date: 2009
Publisher: Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology (FUUAST), Islamabad
Abstract: The developing economies are characterized by severe fiscal deficit, sky-rocketing public debt and unstable economic growth. To finance fiscal activities governments’ resources are limited. The deficits can be corrected through fiscal adjustment and regulations in the shape of government spending cuts, tax increase and/ or debt creation. One of the basic decisions the government has to make is to share out the burden of fiscal adjustment between spending, borrowing and taxing with a view to satisfying the dictates of efficiency and equity, including inter-temporal equity. This fine balancing of policy instruments to achieve well-known fiscal objectives involves, among other things, an evaluation of the level of taxes and spending to decide whether to adjust them at the economically realistic levels. Tax increases may be less problematic than reducing expenditure if the current level of tax revenue is comparatively low based. However, in the former case, considerations of the tax smoothing acquire significance. Another important issue, which this study tackles, is the problem of causality between taxes and spending. Particularly, in order to decide which variable should be given temporal priority, it should be known whether changes in spending lead, follow, occur simultaneously, or are independent of the changes in tax rates. The present study finds that the fiscal stances of Sri Lanka, India and Pakistan are not significantly different from other developing countries, so that our analysis of these countries can be safely generalized to other developing countries. It also aims to check whether these developing countries have in effect adopted a tax smoothing policy to overcome the fiscal deficit and what forms such policy has taken. The empirical analysis presented here reveals that Pakistan and Sri Lanka have tried to minimize the welfare cost of taxation but these have not been policies fully consistent with the best practice tax smoothing. On the contrary, India has not sought to smooth its tax rates to minimize the welfare cost at all. Moreover, fiscal policies in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India have been consistent with the fiscal synchronization, the spend-and-tax, and the institutional independence hypotheses respectively. The present study makes quite a few non-trivial recommendations, which may or may not accord with so-called common sense approaches to such problems. For instances it shows at length that to minimize the welfare cost of taxation the governments should finance their permanent expenditure by increasing the tax rate while transitory shocks to the expenditures or output should be financed by creating public debt. Such debt should, however, be contingent and retired in good days. In the same vein, it recommends that, a countercyclical (debt falls in booms and rises in recessions) policy might also be adopted. On the other, a pro-cyclical policy may lead to volatility in tax rates and increase the welfare cost of taxation. It is asserted that if developing countries fiscal policies are reformed along the lines suggested in this study it would lead to major over-hauling of the fiscal stances of the developing countries----those which would lead to efficient and equitable policies based on robust theoretical and empirical foundations.
Appears in Collections:PhD Thesis of All Public / Private Sector Universities / DAIs.

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