Envelope wages, hidden production and labor productivity

Alessandro Di Nola 1 , Georgi Kocharkov 2  and Aleksandar Vasilev 3
  • 1 University of Konstanz, Konstanz, Germany
  • 2 Goethe University Frankfurt and Deutsche Bundesbank, Frankfurt am Main, Germany
  • 3 University of Licoln, Lincoln, UK
Alessandro Di Nola, Georgi Kocharkov and Aleksandar Vasilev


We evaluate the relative importance of aggregate labor productivity versus income taxes and social contributions for tax compliance in an economy with a large degree of informality. Empirical evidence points out that tax evasion in Europe happens through partially concealing wages and profits in formally registered enterprises. To this end, we build a model in which employer-employee pairs of heterogeneous productive capacities make joint decisions on the degree of tax evasion. The quantitative model is used to analyze the case of Bulgaria which has the largest informal economy in Europe and underwent a number of important tax reforms over the period 2000–2014, including the introduction of a flat income tax in 2008. The estimation strategy relies on matching the empirical series for the size of the informal economy and other aggregate outcomes for 2000–2014. Our counterfactual experiments show that the most important factor for the changing size of the informal economy is labor productivity, which accounts for more than 75% of the change. The variation in corporate income tax accounts for the rest. We find that the 2008 flat tax reform did not play any visible role in coping with informality.

    • Supplementary Material
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The B.E. Journal of Macroeconomics publishes significant research and scholarship in theoretical and applied macroeconomics. The range of topics includes business cycle research, economic growth, and monetary economics, as well as topics drawn from the substantial areas of overlap between macroeconomics and international economics, labor economics, finance, development economics, political economy, public economics, econometric theory.