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The Simple Economics of Salience and Taxation

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  • Raj Chetty

Abstract

This paper derives empirically implementable formulas for the incidence and efficiency costs of taxation that account for tax salience effects as well as other optimization errors. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the formulas imply that the economic incidence of a tax depends on its statutory incidence and that a tax can create deadweight loss even if it induces no change in demand. The results are derived using simple supply and demand diagrams and familiar notions of consumer and producer surplus. The approach to welfare analysis proposed here yields robust formulas because it does not require specification of a positive theory for why agents fail to optimize with respect to tax policies.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 15246.

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Date of creation: Aug 2009
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15246

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  1. Blumkin, Tomer & Ruffle, Bradley J. & Ganun, Yosef, 2012. "Are income and consumption taxes ever really equivalent? Evidence from a real-effort experiment with real goods," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 56(6), pages 1200-1219.
  2. Auerbach, Alan J., 1985. "The theory of excess burden and optimal taxation," Handbook of Public Economics, in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 2, pages 61-127 Elsevier.
  3. Green, Jerry & Hojman, Daniel, 2007. "Choice, Rationality and Welfare Measurement," Working Paper Series rwp07-054, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  4. Raj Chetty, 2003. "A New Method of Estimating Risk Aversion," NBER Working Papers 9988, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Gallagher, Kelly Sims & Muehlegger, Erich, 2011. "Giving green to get green? Incentives and consumer adoption of hybrid vehicle technology," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 61(1), pages 1-15, January.
  6. Rudolf Kerschbamer & Georg Kirchsteiger, 2000. "Theoretically robust but empirically invalid? An experimental investigation into tax equivalence," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 16(3), pages 719-734.
  7. Raj Chetty & Adam Looney & Kory Kroft, 2009. "Salience and taxation: theory and evidence," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2009-11, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  8. B. Douglas Bernheim & Antonio Rangel, 2008. "Beyond Revealed Preference: Choice Theoretic Foundations for Behavioral Welfare Economics," NBER Working Papers 13737, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. S. Dellavigna., 2011. "Psychology and Economics: Evidence from the Field," VOPROSY ECONOMIKI, N.P. Redaktsiya zhurnala "Voprosy Economiki", vol. 4.
  10. Raj Chetty & Emmanuel Saez, 2013. "Teaching the Tax Code: Earnings Responses to an Experiment with EITC Recipients," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 5(1), pages 1-31, January.
  11. Browning, Edgar K, 1987. "On the Marginal Welfare Cost of Taxation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(1), pages 11-23, March.
  12. Chetty, Nadarajan, 2009. "Sufficient Statistics for Welfare Analysis: A Bridge Between Structural and Reduced-Form Methods," Scholarly Articles 9748528, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  13. Kotlikoff, Laurence J. & Summers, Lawrence H., 1987. "Tax incidence," Handbook of Public Economics, in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 16, pages 1043-1092 Elsevier.
  14. Slemrod, Joel, 2006. "The Role of Misconceptions in Support for Regressive Tax Reform," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 59(1), pages 57-75, March.
  15. Naomi E. Feldman & Peter Katuscak, 2006. "Should the Average Tax Rate Be Marginalized?," CERGE-EI Working Papers wp304, The Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education - Economic Institute, Prague.
  16. Hausman, Jerry A & Newey, Whitney K, 1995. "Nonparametric Estimation of Exact Consumers Surplus and Deadweight Loss," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 63(6), pages 1445-76, November.
  17. B. Douglas Bernheim & Antonio Rangel, 2009. "Beyond Revealed Preference: Choice-Theoretic Foundations for Behavioral Welfare Economics-super-," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 124(1), pages 51-104, February.
  18. Xavier Gabaix & David Laibson, 2006. "Shrouded Attributes, Consumer Myopia, and Information Suppression in Competitive Markets," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 121(2), pages 505-540, May.
  19. Atkinson, A. B. & Stiglitz, J. E., 1976. "The design of tax structure: Direct versus indirect taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(1-2), pages 55-75.
  20. de Bartolome, Charles A. M., 1995. "Which tax rate do people use: Average or marginal?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(1), pages 79-96, January.
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Cited by:
  1. Kniesner, Thomas J. & Viscusi, W. Kip & Ziliak, James P., 2009. "Policy Relevant Heterogeneity in the Value of Statistical Life: New Evidence from Panel Data Quantile Regressions," IZA Discussion Papers 4508, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Ekaterina Rhodes & Mark Jaccard, 2013. "A Tale of Two Climate Policies: Political Economy of British Columbia's Carbon Tax and Clean Electricity Standard," Canadian Public Policy, University of Toronto Press, vol. 39(s2), pages 37-52, August.
  3. David Card & Alex Mas & Enrico Moretti & Emmanuel Saez, 2010. "Inequality at Work: The Effect of Peer Salaries on Job Satisfaction," Working Papers 1269, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  4. Raj Chetty & Adam Looney & Kory Kroft, 2007. "Salience and Taxation: Theory and Evidence," NBER Working Papers 13330, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Justin R. Sydnor & Devin G. Pope & Nicola Lacetera, 2011. "Heuristic Thinking and Limited Attention in the Car Market," 2011 Meeting Papers 105, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  6. Burman, L.E. & Coe, N.B. & Dworsky, M. & Gale, W.G., 2008. "Effects of Public Policies on the Disposition of Pre-retirement Lump-Sum Distributions: Rational and Behavioral Influences," Discussion Paper 2008-94, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
  7. Iñigo Iturbe-Ormaetxe Kortajarene, 2011. "Visibility of social security contributions and employment," Working Papers. Serie AD 2011-16, Instituto Valenciano de Investigaciones Económicas, S.A. (Ivie).
  8. Johannes Abeler & Simon Jäger, 2013. "Complex Tax Incentives - An Experimental Investigation," CESifo Working Paper Series 4231, CESifo Group Munich.
  9. Martin Altemeyer-Bartscher, 2014. "Fiscal Equalization, Tax Salience, and Tax Competition," IWH Discussion Papers 3, Halle Institute for Economic Research.
  10. Elinder, Mikael & Persson, Lovisa, 2014. "Property Taxation, Bounded Rationality and House Prices," Working Paper Series 1029, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
  11. William F. Fox & Matthew Murray, 2013. "Taxing the Small: Fostering Tax Compliance Among Small Enterprises in Developing Countries," International Center for Public Policy Working Paper Series, at AYSPS, GSU paper1310, International Center for Public Policy, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University.

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