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Accuracy, Complexity, and the Income Tax

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  • Kaplow, Louis

Abstract

The complexity of the income tax is an unending source of complaint, and compliance costs are estimated to be very large. Yet most recognize that some degree of complexity is necessary if income is to be measured accurately. This article presents a framework for analyzing the value of greater accuracy in income taxation. Formulations for both distributive and incentive benefits of accuracy are offered. In addition, the article takes into account that compliance costs and the effects of complex provisions are endogenous, determined in significant part by taxpayers' information acquisition efforts. The article addresses whether taxpayers have excessive or inadequate incentives to acquire information about taxable income and to challenge tax assessments. Copyright 1998 by Oxford University Press.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Oxford University Press in its journal Journal of Law, Economics and Organization.

Volume (Year): 14 (1998)
Issue (Month): 1 (April)
Pages: 61-83

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Handle: RePEc:oup:jleorg:v:14:y:1998:i:1:p:61-83

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References

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  1. Yitzhaki, Shlomo, 1979. "A Note on Optimal Taxation and Administrative Costs," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 69(3), pages 475-80, June.
  2. Stiglitz, Joseph E., 1982. "Utilitarianism and horizontal equity : The case for random taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 1-33, June.
  3. Barro, Robert J, 1979. "On the Determination of the Public Debt," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(5), pages 940-71, October.
  4. Suzanne Scotchmer & Joel Slemrod, 1988. "Randomness in Tax Enforcement," NBER Working Papers 2512, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Beck, Paul J. & Jung, Woon-Oh, 1989. "Taxpayer compliance under uncertainty," Journal of Accounting and Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 8(1), pages 1-27.
  6. Stern, Nicholas, 1982. "Optimum taxation with errors in administration," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(2), pages 181-211, March.
  7. Sanchez, Isabel & Sobel, Joel, 1993. "Hierarchical design and enforcement of income tax policies," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(3), pages 345-369, March.
  8. John C. Harsanyi, 1953. "Cardinal Utility in Welfare Economics and in the Theory of Risk-taking," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 61, pages 434.
  9. Louis Kaplow & Steven Shavell, 1991. "Private Versus Socially Optimal Provision of Ex Ante Legal Advice," NBER Working Papers 3868, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Kaplow, Louis, 1989. "Horizontal Equity: Measures in Search of a Principle," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 42(2), pages 139-54, June.
  11. Mookherjee, Dilip & Png, Ivan, 1989. "Optimal Auditing, Insurance, and Redistribution," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 104(2), pages 399-415, May.
  12. Louis Kaplow, 1985. "Horizontal Equity: Measures in Search of a Principle," NBER Working Papers 1679, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Mirrlees, James A, 1971. "An Exploration in the Theory of Optimum Income Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 38(114), pages 175-208, April.
  14. Browning, Edgar K, 1987. "On the Marginal Welfare Cost of Taxation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(1), pages 11-23, March.
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Cited by:
  1. Slemrod, Joel & Yitzhaki, Shlomo, 2002. "Tax avoidance, evasion, and administration," Handbook of Public Economics, in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 22, pages 1423-1470 Elsevier.
  2. Slemrod, Joel & Traxler, Christian, 2010. "Optimal observability in a linear income tax," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 108(2), pages 105-108, August.

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