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Are Estimated Tax Elasticities Really Just Tax Evasion Elasticities? The Case of Charitable Contributions

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  • Joel Slemrod

Abstract

Tax return data, which has been a principal source for econometric investigations of the behavioral response to tax policy, is subject to misreporting that may bias estimates of tax responsiveness. The misreporting arises because understatement of taxable income may itself be a function of an individuals marginal tax rate, it being the return to a dollar of understated taxable income. To the extent that misreporting of income and deductions is a function of the same factors that determine the behavior under study, estimated relationships based on reported data will reveal a composite of the tax (and income) responsiveness of the actual behavior and of the misreporting of the behavior. This paper used data from tax returns that have been subject to intensive audits to confront the quantitative importance of misreporting for the estimated tax responsiveness of charitable contributions. This has been the subject of numerous empirical studies using tax return data which use a common empirical framework. It concludes that the tax responsiveness of charitable giving that has been detected using tax return data cannot be ascribed to the tax responsiveness of overstating actual giving In fact. overstatement is apparently less price responsive than actual giving, implying that the responsiveness of actual giving is higher than is suggested by studying reported contributions.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 2733.

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Date of creation: Oct 1988
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Publication status: published as Review of Economics and Statistics, Vol. 71, no. 3 (August 1989): 517-522.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:2733

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  1. Poterba, James M, 1987. "Tax Evasion and Capital Gains Taxation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(2), pages 234-39, May.
  2. Reece, William S & Zieschang, Kimberly D, 1985. "Consistent Estimation of the Impact of Tax Deductibility on the Level of Charitable Contributions," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 53(2), pages 271-93, March.
  3. Pitt, Mark M., 1981. "Smuggling and price disparity," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 11(4), pages 447-458, November.
  4. Yitzhaki, Shlomo, 1974. "Income tax evasion: A theoretical analysis," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 3(2), pages 201-202, May.
  5. Clotfelter, Charles T, 1983. "Tax Evasion and Tax Rates: An Analysis of Individual Returns," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 65(3), pages 363-73, August.
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Cited by:
  1. Charles T. Clotfelter, 1990. "The Impact of Tax Reform on Charitable Giving: A 1989 Perspective," NBER Working Papers 3273, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Yitzhaki, Shlomo & Vakneen, Yitzhak, 1988. "The shadow price of a tax inspector," Policy Research Working Paper Series 76, The World Bank.
  3. Philip Brown & Jessica Minty, 2006. "Media Coverage & Charitable Giving After the 2004 Tsunami," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series wp855, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
  4. Ribar, D.C. & Wilhelm, M.O., 1993. "Charitable Contributions to International Relief and Development," Papers 1-93-1a, Pennsylvania State - Department of Economics.
  5. Grubert, Harry & Newlon, T. Scott, 1996. "Reply to Avi-Yonah," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 49(2), pages 267, June.
  6. Don Fullerton, 1991. "Tax Policy Toward Art Museums," NBER Chapters, in: The Economics of Art Museums, pages 195-236 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. David Joulfaian & Mark Rider, 2003. "Errors in Variables and Estimated Price Elasticities for Charitable Giving," International Center for Public Policy Working Paper Series, at AYSPS, GSU paper0307, International Center for Public Policy, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University.
  8. O'Neil, Cherie J. & Steinberg, Richard S. & Thompson, G. Rodney, 1996. "Reassessing the Tax-Favored Status of the Charitable Deduction for Gifts of Appreciated Assets," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 49(2), pages 215-33, June.
  9. 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.
  10. Auten, Gerald & Joulfaian, David, 1996. "Charitable contributions and intergenerational transfers," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(1), pages 55-68, January.
  11. 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.
  12. Yermack, David, 2009. "Deductio' ad absurdum: CEOs donating their own stock to their own family foundations," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(1), pages 107-123, October.

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