China's VAT Tax Reform: A Boon for the Economy or an Opportunity for Moral Hazard?

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Abstract

In 2012, the Chinese government replaced the existing business sales tax with a Value-added tax for some, but not all, Shanghainese firms. The change was intended to reduce the effective tax rate for firms and stimulate capital investment and employment. Of concern is the potential for managerial moral hazard, whereby self-interested managers might appropriate some of the tax savings for themselves rather than use the tax savings as intended. This paper examines the impact of the tax change on the affected firms and finds no significant evidence that the intended positive effects were achieved. Moreover, it also finds no strong evidence of moral hazard. Instead, the paper documents that the tax change seems to have had a deleterious effect on firm performance. Specifically, employee compensation, capital expenditures, and free cash flow are all lower when the tax changes became effective, with the negative impact on cash flows lingering through 2014. An examination of the effective tax rate reveals that the tax change increased rather than decreased the effective tax rate in 2012 and 2013.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2050004
JournalReview of Pacific Basin Financial Markets and Policies
Volume23
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Finance
  • Economics and Econometrics

Keywords

  • agency problems
  • China
  • moral hazard
  • Value-added tax
  • VAT

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