Discussion paper

DP17453 Ghosting the Tax Authority: Fake Firms and Tax Fraud

An important but poorly understood form of firm tax evasion arises from the use of “ghost firms”—fake firms that issue fraudulent receipts so that their clients can claim false deductions. We provide a unique window into this global phenomenon using transaction-level tax data from Ecuador. Ghost transactions are widespread, prevalent among large firms and firms with high-income owners, and exhibit suspicious
patterns in comparison to ordinary transactions: bunching at round numbers, at the end of the fiscal year, and just below financial system thresholds. We go on to study an innovative enforcement intervention that targeted ghost clients rather than ghosts themselves, which led to substantial tax recovery.


Carrillo, P, D Donaldson, D Pomeranz and M Singhal (2022), ‘DP17453 Ghosting the Tax Authority: Fake Firms and Tax Fraud‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 17453. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp17453