Tobacco tax evasion in Western Balkan countries: tax evasion prevalence and evasion determinants

Vladisavljević, Marko and Zubović, Jovan and Jovanović, Olivera and Đukić, Mihajlo and Trajkova Najdovska, Nataša and Pula, Ereza and Gligorić, Dragan and Gjika, Aida (2022) Tobacco tax evasion in Western Balkan countries: tax evasion prevalence and evasion determinants. Tobacco control. ISSN 0964-4563

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Background and objective Tobacco tax evasion undermines the goal of tobacco taxes as a tobacco control measure to make tobacco products less affordable, increases the health risks for those who smoke and decreases the government revenue. This paper analyses the tobacco tax evasion in six Western Balkan (WB) countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia. The aim of this research is to estimate the size of the illicit market and identify the main determinants of tax evasion activities in the Southeastern European region. Data and methods Data from 2019 Survey on Tobacco Consumption in Southeastern Europe (STCSEE) are used. STC-SEE provides uniquely comparable nationally representative data on smoking behaviour for adult (18–85 years old) population for each country. Tax evasion is defined on the basis of available information on tax stamps, health warnings, price and the place of purchase, in accordance with the previous research on tax evasion. In order to estimate the determinants of illicit purchases we use binary choice model of tax evasion. Results The study finds that 20.4% of all current smokers in WB countries evade taxes on tobacco products, with evasion being much more frequent for hand-rolled (HR) tobacco (86.7%) than for the manufactured cigarettes (MC) (8.6%). While HR is predominantly illicit in all six countries, MC evasion varies significantly, with evasion being significantly higher in Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Results further suggest that tax evasion is higher in the statistical regions where institutional capacities to tackle illicit trade are lower, in municipalities bordering countries with high MC evasion, as well as among smokers with low income, women and elderly. We also provide evidence that higher tobacco taxes and prices do not increase illicit consumption. Conclusion The findings from the research suggest that in order to decrease tax evasion, governments should put additional effort to strengthen institutional capacities to tackle illicit tobacco markets. Furthermore, improving regional coordination in development and implementation of tobacco control policies, including the prevention of illicit market, is essential in lowering evasion in all WB countries. Finally, WB countries should regulate and enforce excise tax stamp requirements on the HR tobacco market to a much higher degree.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: COBISS.ID=55935241
Research Department: Welfare Economics
Depositing User: Jelena Banovic
Date Deposited: 14 Jan 2022 21:48
Last Modified: 14 Jan 2022 21:49

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