This paper outlines and tests a model in which firms seek to reduce the cost of taxes and regulatory compliance by offering bribes to government officials. It finds that firms' profitability (scaled by production costs) largely determines both the amounts paid and the time spent negotiating bribes with officials. Competition between arms of the bureaucracy for bribe income seems to be a result of decentralisation, but the analysis suggests that this competition would lead to a spreading of bribes among a larger number of officials rather than to a significant increase in their total amount. Local governments may be able to raise more revenue by reducing the number of taxes and regulations and using part of the increased revenue to raise the salaries of officials, while devoting more effort to restraining corrupt behaviour. But progress may be blocked by central government tax officials increasing their demands for bribes.