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How Does Charitable Giving Respond to Incentives and Income? Dynamic Panel Estimates Accounting for Predictable Changes in Taxation

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  • Jon Bakija
  • Bradley Heim

Abstract

We estimate the elasticity of charitable giving with respect to its price and after-tax income using a panel of over 550,000 disproportionately high-income tax returns spanning the years 1979 through 2005. Improvements relative to the previous literature include: using state tax variation to help identify our model while controlling for both individual- and time-specific unobserved heterogeneity; carefully dealing with expectations; allowing people at different income levels to have different degrees responsiveness to taxation and different time paths of unobservable influences on giving; and using a measure of charitable giving that more closely approximates current donations. To address the omitted variable bias that would otherwise arise from failing to control for unobservable expectations of future prices and future incomes, we use predictable changes in future federal and state marginal tax rates and tax liabilities, arising from their pre-announced and phased-in nature, as instruments for future changes in prices and income. Our estimate of the elasticity of giving with respect to a persistent price change for the full sample is about -0.7; this elasticity is generally larger when the sample is limited to high-income people and we control for time-varying unobservable influences on charity in a flexible fashion. We find some evidence, particularly among very high-income people, of re-timing giving in response to expected future changes in price, but this finding is sensitive to the source of identification for the price effects. Our estimates are broadly consistent the permanent income hypothesis. Expenditures on charitable giving are estimated to respond more strongly to persistent changes in income than to transitory fluctuations in income. Moreover, we find evidence in some specifications that people will increase their charitable giving now in response to a predictable reduction in future tax liability arising from tax reform.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14237.

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Date of creation: Aug 2008
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14237

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  1. Raj Chetty & Adam Looney & Kory Kroft, 2007. "Salience and Taxation: Theory and Evidence," NBER Working Papers 13330, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Burman, Leonard E & Randolph, William C, 1994. "Measuring Permanent Responses to Capital-Gains Tax Changes in Panel Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(4), pages 794-809, September.
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  4. Clotfelter, Charles T., 1985. "Federal Tax Policy and Charitable Giving," National Bureau of Economic Research Books, University of Chicago Press, edition 1, number 9780226110486.
  5. Gerald E. Auten & Holger Sieg & Charles T. Clotfelter, 2002. "Charitable Giving, Income, and Taxes: An Analysis of Panel Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(1), pages 371-382, March.
  6. Saez, Emmanuel, 2004. "The optimal treatment of tax expenditures," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(12), pages 2657-2684, December.
  7. Feldstein, Martin & Clotfelter, Charles, 1976. "Tax incentives and charitable contributions in the United States : A microeconometric analysis," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 5(1-2), pages 1-26.
  8. Austan Goolsbee, 2000. "What Happens When You Tax the Rich? Evidence from Executive Compensation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(2), pages 352-378, April.
  9. Jon Bakija, 2000. "Distinguishing Transitory and Permanent Price Elasticities of Charitable Giving with Pre-Announced Changes in Tax Law," Department of Economics Working Papers 2000-06, Department of Economics, Williams College.
  10. Marianne Bertrand & Esther Duflo & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2002. "How Much Should We Trust Differences-in-Differences Estimates?," NBER Working Papers 8841, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Barrett, Kevin S. & McGuirk, Anya M. & Steinberg, Richard S., 1997. "Further Evidence on the Dynamic Impact of Taxes on Charitable Giving," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 50(2), pages 321-34, June.
  12. Karlan, Dean & List, John, 2006. "Does Price Matter in Charitable Giving? Evidence from a Large-Scale Natural Field Experiment," Working Papers 13, Yale University, Department of Economics.
  13. Burman, Leonard E. & Clausing, Kimberly A. & O'Hare, John F., 1994. "Tax Reform and Realizations of Capital Gains in 1986," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 47(1), pages 1-18, March.
  14. Charles T. Clotfelter, 1985. "Federal Tax Policy and Charitable Giving," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number clot85-1, May.
  15. Randolph, William C, 1995. "Dynamic Income, Progressive Taxes, and the Timing of Charitable Contributions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(4), pages 709-38, August.
  16. Zoran Ivković & James Poterba & Scott Weisbenner, 2005. "Tax-Motivated Trading by Individual Investors," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(5), pages 1605-1630, December.
  17. Auten, Gerald E. & Cilke, James M. & Randolph, William C., 1992. "The Effects of Tax Reform on Charitable Contributions," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 45(3), pages 267-90, September.
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Cited by:
  1. Emmanuel Saez & Joel B. Slemrod & Seth H. Giertz, 2009. "The Elasticity of Taxable Income with Respect to Marginal Tax Rates: A Critical Review," NBER Working Papers 15012, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Kim Scharf & Sarah Smith, 2010. "The price elasticity of charitable giving: does the form of tax relief matter?," IFS Working Papers W10/07, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  3. Gabrielle Fack & Camille Landais, 2010. "Are Tax Incentives for Charitable Giving Efficient? Evidence from France," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 2(2), pages 117-41, May.
  4. Blumenthal, Marsha & Kalambokidis, Laura & Turk, Alex, 2012. "Subsidizing Charitable Contributions With A Match Instead Of A Deduction: What Happens To Donations And Compliance?," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 65(1), pages 91-116, March.
  5. Bakija, Jon & Heim, Bradley T., 2011. "How Does Charitable Giving Respond To Incentives And Income? New Estimates From Panel Data," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 64(2), pages 615-50, June.
  6. Chau Do & Irina Paley, 2012. "Altruism from the house: the impact of home equity on charitable giving," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 10(3), pages 375-393, September.
  7. Kimberly Scharf & Sarah Smith, 2011. "Rational Inattention to Subsidies for Charitable Contributions," The Centre for Market and Public Organisation 11/269, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.
  8. Michael Rushton, 2008. "Who pays? Who benefits? Who decides?," Journal of Cultural Economics, Springer, vol. 32(4), pages 293-300, December.
  9. Steinberg, Richard & Zhang, Ye & Brown, Eleanor & Rooney, Patrick, 2010. "Earned, owned, or transferred: are donations sensitive to the composition of income and wealth?," MPRA Paper 30082, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  10. Scharf, Kimberley Ann, 2010. "Public Funding of Charities and Competitive Charity Selection," CEPR Discussion Papers 7937, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.

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