In the context of the wave of anti-globalization, the rise of trade protectionism, and the trade friction between China and US, could China employ internal reform, such as fiscal and tax policy, to achieve the upgrading of firm export performance? Or rather, could tax relief provide Chinese firms a taxation-driving force for improving export performance? The discussion on this issue is of great practical significance.In view of this, based on the data of World Bank’s Chinese Firm Survey in 2005, supplemented by World Bank’s Chinese Firm Survey in 2012, this paper makes the first attempt to systematically explore the impact of tax burden on firm export behavior. Our main finding is that tax burden has a negative impact on firms’ export propensity, export scale, and export intensity. Furthermore, the negative impact mainly comes from VAT burden.
The innovation and contribution of this paper are as follows: Firstly, to the best of my knowledge, this is the first paper to directly explore the impacts of different kinds of tax burden on firm export behavior based on the data of World Bank’s Chinese Firm Survey in 2005 and World Bank’s Chinese Firm Survey in 2012, which provides the micro evidence for verifying the substantial effect of tax burden on firm export behavior. Secondly, this paper compares the impacts of turnover tax（indirect tax） burden and income tax（direct tax） burden on firm export behavior, and finds that the negative impact mainly comes from turnover tax（indirect tax）burden, which indicates that tax structure biased toward direct tax is a better tax arrangement for export firms under the premise that the general target of taxation is determined. “Decision of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China on Some Major Issues Concerning Comprehensively Deepening the Reform” adopted at the Third Plenary Session of the Party’s 18th National Congress clearly put forward that we should “deepen the reform of taxation system, perfect the local taxation base, and gradually raise the share of direct taxation”. This paper provides empirical evidence for the rationality and necessity of this reform form the perspective of stabling foreign trade. Thirdly, to get to the bottom of the origins of the negative impact, this paper inquisitively explores which kind of turnover tax（indirect tax） burden has a substantial effect on firm export behavior by comparing the impacts of VAT burden, business tax burden and consumption tax burden, and finally finds that VAT burden has the strongest negative impact on firm export behavior, followed by business tax burden and consumption tax burden, or rather, the negative impact of turnover tax burden on firm export behavior mainly comes from VAT burden. Fourthly, this paper supplements the empirical study on firm export mode by comparing the impacts of tax burden on firm direct export and firm indirect export, and finds that tax burden mainly affects indirect export. Fifthly, this paper makes the first attempt to explore the channels through which tax burden affects firm export behavior in detail, and thus systematically gives an answer to the question that how tax burden affects firm export behavior.