Many governments in emerging markets mistakenly believe that they can reduce the level of informality by forgiving past tax debts of companies that come forward. Turkey, for instance, has had ten tax amnesties since 1963—one nearly every four years—and five social-security amnesties since 1983. Their provisions included the right to base the payment of past taxes on historical values of Turkey’s currency, the lira. Given the country’s high inflation rates, this approach greatly reduces the amount businesses have to pay. A McKinsey study shows that governments make ongoing enforcement more difficult with such measures, since companies wait for the next amnesty before coming clean.
In developed countries, the penalties are usually two to three times the amount of the evaded taxes, coupled with imprisonment if the evasion is persistent or involves more than a set amount. Tax evaders in emerging markets often get by with a slap on the wrist; in Turkey, for instance, the fine for VAT evasion is less than $20.
Probably corruption has also something to do with how evasion is considered in emerging economies. What do you think?