Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date

2020

Subjects

payroll taxes, social insurance, labor informality, COVID, China

Abstract

Numerous countries cut payroll taxes in response to economic downturns caused by COVID-19. This includes China, which completely exempted most firms from making social insurance (SI) contributions, resulting in an average tax cut of 21 percentage points on formal labor costs and approximately 20% of total tax remittances made by firms. We use novel data on 900,000 firms in one Chinese province to document new facts about the structure of SI in China and evaluate payroll tax cuts as a COVID-19 relief measure. We calculate that labor informality causes 54% of tax-registered firms---representing 24% of aggregate economic activity---to receive no benefits. Labor formality also increases with firm size, further skewing the benefit of payroll tax cuts towards large firms. But despite the mistargeting that results from these facts, the benefit of the tax cuts relative to firms' operating costs and liquidity is likely larger both for smaller firms and in industries most affected by the COVID-19 shock because these firms and industries are more labor-intensive.

Share

COinS
 
 

To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.