Can Tax Incentives for Electronic Payments Curtail the Shadow Economy? Koreas Attempt to Reduce Underreporting in Retail Businesses

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Sung, Myung Jae; Awasthi, Rajul; Lee, Hyung Chul

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Graduate School of Public Administration, Seoul National University
Korean Journal of Policy Studies, Vol.32 No.2 pp. 85-134
shadow economyelectronic paymentelectronic tax administrationtax fraudtax incentives
Increasing tax revenues by curtailing the shadow economy has been a central goal of tax policy and administration in the Republic of Korea since the National Tax Service was established as an independent agency in 1966. This paper examines the Tax Incentives for Electronically Traceable Payments (TIETP) introduced by the Korean tax authorities in 1999 to promote payments made using credit cards, debit cards, and electronic cash receipts in business-to-consumer transactions. TIETP allows wage and salary earners to claim tax deductions for eligible purchases made using electronically traceable payments when they file their year-end income tax return. This tax incentive scheme has greatly contributed to transforming the Korean economy into a cashless economy over the last decade and a half. Card payments as a ratio of Koreas GDP have ranked highest in the world since 2005, reaching 49% in 2014. TIETP has increased the percentage of business income earners who pay taxes from stagnant at around 30% up to the late 1990s to approximately 80% at present. The effective personal income tax rate for business income followed a continuous upward trend from 3.4% in 1998 to 6.3% in 2013. The total revenue increase driven by TIETP has been estimated as ₩3.4 trillion, with TIETP costs reaching ₩1.9 trillion. The net gain is an estimated ₩1.4 trillion (approximately US$1.3 billion), an increase of personal income tax revenue by 4.2%. TIETP also had a positive impact on income redistribution, decreasing Gini coefficients by 0.11 percentage points.
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Graduate School of Public Administration (행정대학원)Dept. of Public Administration (행정학과)Korean Journal of Policy Studies (정책논총, KJPS)Korean Journal of Policy Studies (정책논총) vol.32 no.1-3 (2017)
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