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Sales Taxes and Internet Commerce

Author

Listed:
  • Liran Einav
  • Dan Knoepfle
  • Jonathan Levin
  • Neel Sundaresan

Abstract

We estimate the sensitivity of Internet retail purchasing to sales taxes using eBay data. Our first approach exploits the fact that a seller's location?and therefore the applicable tax rate?is revealed only after a buyer has expressed interest in an item. We document how adverse tax "surprises" reduce the likelihood of purchase and shift subsequent purchases toward out-of-state sellers. We then use more aggregated data to estimate that every one percentage point increase in a state's sales tax increases online purchases by state residents by almost 2 percent, while decreasing their online purchases from state retailers by 3?4 percent.

Suggested Citation

  • Liran Einav & Dan Knoepfle & Jonathan Levin & Neel Sundaresan, 2014. "Sales Taxes and Internet Commerce," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(1), pages 1-26, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:104:y:2014:i:1:p:1-26
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.104.1.1
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Austan Goolsbee & Michael F. Lovenheim & Joel Slemrod, 2010. "Playing with Fire: Cigarettes, Taxes, and Competition from the Internet," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 2(1), pages 131-154, February.
    2. Timothy J. Besley & Harvey S. Rosen, 1998. "Sales Taxes and Prices: An Empirical Analysis," NBER Working Papers 6667, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Michael D. Smith & Erik Brynjolfsson, 2001. "Consumer Decision-making at an Internet Shopbot: Brand Still Matters," NBER Chapters,in: E-commerce, pages 541-558 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Ballard, Charles L. & Lee, Jaimin, 2007. "Internet Purchases, Cross-Border Shopping, and Sales Taxes," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 60(4), pages 711-725, December.
    5. Ali Hortaçsu & F. Asís Martínez-Jerez & Jason Douglas, 2009. "The Geography of Trade in Online Transactions: Evidence from eBay and MercadoLibre," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 1(1), pages 53-74, February.
    6. Raj Chetty & Adam Looney & Kory Kroft, 2009. "Salience and Taxation: Theory and Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(4), pages 1145-1177, September.
    7. Liran Einav & Theresa Kuchler & Jonathan D. Levin & Neel Sundaresan, 2011. "Learning from Seller Experiments in Online Markets," NBER Working Papers 17385, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Glenn Ellison & Sara Fisher Ellison, 2009. "Tax Sensitivity and Home State Preferences in Internet Purchasing," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 1(2), pages 53-71, August.
    9. Raj Chetty, 2009. "The Simple Economics of Salience and Taxation," NBER Working Papers 15246, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. James Alm & Mikhail I. Melnik, 2005. "Sales Taxes and the Decision to Purchase Online," Public Finance Review, , vol. 33(2), pages 184-212, March.
    11. Besley, Timothy J. & Rosen, Harvey S., 1999. "Sales Taxes and Prices: An Empirical Analysis," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 52(2), pages 157-178, June.
    12. Mark A. Scanlan, 2007. "Tax Sensitivity in Electronic Commerce," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 28(4), pages 417-436, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:eee:pubeco:v:150:y:2017:i:c:p:53-74 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Steel, Will & Daglish, Toby & Marriott, Lisa & Gemmell, Norman & Howell, Bronwyn, 2013. "E-Commerce and its effect upon the Retail Industry and Government Revenue," Working Paper Series 4333, Victoria University of Wellington, The New Zealand Institute for the Study of Competition and Regulation.
    3. Ishuan Li & Robert Simonson & Guncha Babajanova & Matthew Tuomala, 2016. "Smartphone Diffusion and Consumer Price Comparison Shopping Behavior: Implications for the Marketplace Fairness Act," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 36(3), pages 1337-1353.
    4. Jean-François Houde & Peter Newberry & Katja Seim, 2017. "Economies of Density in E-Commerce: A Study of Amazon’s Fulfillment Center Network," NBER Working Papers 23361, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Casey B. Mulligan, 2017. "The Employer Penalty, Voluntary Compliance, and the Size Distribution of Firms: Evidence from a Survey of Small Businesses," NBER Working Papers 24037, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Agrawal, David R., 2014. "LOST in America: Evidence on local sales taxes from national panel data," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 147-163.
    7. Sumit Agarwal & Leslie McGranahan, 2012. "Spending responses to state sales tax holidays," Working Paper Series WP-2012-10, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
    8. Houde, Sebastien & Aldy, Joseph E., 2017. "The Efficiency Consequences of Heterogeneous Behavioral Responses to Energy Fiscal Policies," Working Paper Series rwp17-047, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    9. repec:bla:jindec:v:65:y:2017:i:2:p:439-468 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Birg, Laura, 2015. "Cross-border or online: Tax competition with mobile consumers under destination and origin principle," Center for European, Governance and Economic Development Research Discussion Papers 265, University of Goettingen, Department of Economics.
    11. Fox, William F. & Luna, LeAnn & Schaur, Georg, 2014. "Destination taxation and evasion: Evidence from U.S. inter-state commodity flows," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(1), pages 43-57.
    12. Sébastien Houde & Joseph E. Aldy, 2017. "The Efficiency Consequences of Heterogeneous Behavioral Responses to Energy Fiscal Policies," NBER Working Papers 24103, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H71 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - State and Local Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue
    • L81 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Retail and Wholesale Trade; e-Commerce
    • L86 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Information and Internet Services; Computer Software

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