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Using Notches to Uncover Optimization Frictions and Structural Elasticities: Theory and Evidence from Pakistan

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  • Henrik J. Kleven
  • Mazhar Waseem

Abstract

We develop a framework for nonparametrically identifying optimization frictions and structural elasticities using notches--discontinuities in the choice sets of agents--introduced by tax and transfer policies. Notches create excess bunching on the low-tax side and missing mass on the high-tax side of a cutoff, and they are often associated with a region of strictly dominated choice that would have zero mass in a frictionless world. By combining excess bunching (observed response attenuated by frictions) with missing mass in the dominated region (frictions), it is possible to uncover the structural elasticity that would govern behavior in the absence of frictions and arguably capture long-run behavior. We apply our framework to tax notches in Pakistan using rich administrative data. While observed bunching is large and sharp, optimization frictions are also very large as the majority of taxpayers in dominated ranges are unresponsive to tax incentives. The combination of large observed bunching and large frictions implies that the frictionless behavioral response to notches is extremely large, but the underlying structural elasticity driving this response is nevertheless modest. This highlights the inefficiency of notches: by creating extremely strong price distortions, they induce large behavioral responses even when structural elasticities are small. JEL Codes: H31, J22, O12. Copyright 2013, Oxford University Press.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Oxford University Press in its journal The Quarterly Journal of Economics.

Volume (Year): 128 (2013)
Issue (Month): 2 ()
Pages: 669-723

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Handle: RePEc:oup:qjecon:v:128:y:2013:i:2:p:669-723

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Cited by:
  1. Christian A. L. Hilber & Teemu Lyytikäinen, 2012. "The Effect of the UK Stamp Duty Land Tax on Household Mobility," SERC Discussion Papers 0115, Spatial Economics Research Centre, LSE.
  2. Luis Garicano & Claire Lelarge & John Van Reenen, 2012. "Firm Size Distortions and the Productivity Distribution: Evidence from France," CEP Discussion Papers dp1128, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  3. Frías, Judith A & Kumler, Todd & Verhoogen, Eric A, 2013. "Enlisting Employees in Improving Payroll-Tax Compliance: Evidence from Mexico," CEPR Discussion Papers 9622, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. Gabrielle Fack & Camille Landais, 2013. "The effect of tax enforcement on tax elasticities: Evidence from charitable contributions in France," Economics Working Papers 1406, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  5. Sara LaLumia & James M. Salle & Nicolas Turner, 2013. "New Evidence on Taxes and the Timing of Birth," Department of Economics Working Papers 2013-06, Department of Economics, Williams College.
  6. Almunia, Miguel & Lopez-Rodriguez, David, 2012. "The efficiency cost of tax enforcement: evidence from a panel of spanish firms," MPRA Paper 44153, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  7. Leung, Charles Ka Yui & Leung, Tommy Tin Cheuk & Tsang, Byron Kwok Ping, 2014. "Tax-driven Bunching of Housing Market Transactions: The case of Hong Kong," MPRA Paper 53729, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  8. Christian Gillitzer & Peer Ebbesen Skov, 2013. "Evidence on Unclaimed Charitable Contributions from the Introduction of Third-Party Information Reporting in Denmark," EPRU Working Paper Series 2013-04, Economic Policy Research Unit (EPRU), University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
  9. Alexander M. Gelber & Damon Jones & Daniel W. Sacks, 2013. "Earnings Adjustment Frictions: Evidence from the Social Security Earnings Test," NBER Working Papers 19491, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Anne Brockmeyer, 2013. "The investment effect of taxation: evidence from a corporate tax kink," Working Papers 1317, Oxford University Centre for Business Taxation.
  11. Dayanand S. Manoli & Andrea Weber, 2011. "Nonparametric Evidence on the Effects of Financial Incentives on Retirement Decisions," NBER Working Papers 17320, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Alexander M. Gelber & Damon Jones & Daniel W. Sacks, 2013. "Earnings Adjustment Frictions: Evidence From Social Security Earnings Test," Working Papers 13-50, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  13. Mazhar Waseem, 2013. "Taxes, Informality and Income Shifting: Evidence from a Recent Pakistani Tax Reform," 2013 Papers pwa641, Job Market Papers.
  14. François Gerard & Gustavo Gonzaga, 2013. "Informal Labor and the Cost of Social Programs: Evidence from 15 Years of Unemployment Insurance in Brazil," Textos para discussão 608, Department of Economics PUC-Rio (Brazil).
  15. Peichl, Andreas & Fuest, Clemens & Siegloch, Sebastian, 2013. "Wage Incidence of Local Corporate Taxation - Micro Evidence from Germany," Annual Conference 2013 (Duesseldorf): Competition Policy and Regulation in a Global Economic Order 79916, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
  16. Daniel le Maire & Bertel Schjerningo, 2012. "Tax Bunching, Income Shifting and Self-employment," EPRU Working Paper Series 2012-04, Economic Policy Research Unit (EPRU), University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.

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