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The Micro-geography of Tax Avoidance: Evidence from Littered Cigarette Packs in Chicago

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  • David Merriman

Abstract

The large tax differentials between Chicago and neighboring jurisdictions provide an incentive for cigarette tax avoidance. Data from a random sample of cigarette packs littered in Chicago reveals a startling degree of tax avoidance: three-quarters did not display a Chicago tax stamp. Also, the $2.68 difference between the tax in Chicago and surrounding counties decreases the probability of a local stamp by almost 60 percent, and a one mile increase in distance to the lower-tax state border increases the probability a pack of a local stamp by about one percent. These results are consistent with the predictions of economic theory. (JEL H25, H26, H71)

Suggested Citation

  • David Merriman, 2010. "The Micro-geography of Tax Avoidance: Evidence from Littered Cigarette Packs in Chicago," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 2(2), pages 61-84, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aejpol:v:2:y:2010:i:2:p:61-84
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/pol.2.2.61
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Joel Slemrod, 2007. "Cheating Ourselves: The Economics of Tax Evasion," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(1), pages 25-48, Winter.
    2. Jha, Prabhat & Chaloupka, Frank (ed.), 2000. "Tobacco Control in Developing Countries," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780192632463.
    3. Stehr, Mark, 2005. "Cigarette tax avoidance and evasion," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 277-297, March.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Brian Knight, 2013. "State Gun Policy and Cross-State Externalities: Evidence from Crime Gun Tracing," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 5(4), pages 200-229, November.
    2. Lesley Chiou & Erich Muehlegger, 2014. "Consumer Response to Cigarette Excise Tax Changes," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 67(3), pages 621-650, September.
    3. Howard Chernick & David Merriman, 2013. "Using Littered Pack Data to Estimate Cigarette Tax Avoidance in Nyc," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 66(3), pages 635-668, June.
    4. Johansson, Per & Pekkarinen, Tuomas & Verho, Jouko, 2014. "Cross-border health and productivity effects of alcohol policies," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 36(C), pages 125-136.
    5. Kyle Rozema & Nicolas Ziebarth, 2015. "Behavioral Responses to Taxation: Cigarette Taxes and Food Stamp Take-Up," Working Papers 150015, Canadian Centre for Health Economics.
    6. James Alm & Mikhail I. Melnik, 2012. "Does Online Cross-border Shopping Affect State Use Tax Liabilities?," Working Papers 1206, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
    7. Christian Ben Lakhdar & Nicolas Gérard Vaillant & François-Charles Wolff, 2016. "Does smoke cross the border? Cigarette tax avoidance in France," The European Journal of Health Economics, Springer;Deutsche Gesellschaft für Gesundheitsökonomie (DGGÖ), vol. 17(9), pages 1073-1089, December.
    8. Berger, Melissa & Fellner-Röhling, Gerlinde & Sausgruber, Rupert & Traxler, Christian, 2016. "Higher taxes, more evasion? Evidence from border differentials in TV license fees," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 135(C), pages 74-86.
    9. DeCicca, Philip & Kenkel, Donald & Liu, Feng, 2013. "Excise tax avoidance: The case of state cigarette taxes," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(6), pages 1130-1141.
    10. David Agrawal & William H. Hoyt, 2014. "State Tax Differentials, Cross-Border Commuting, and Commuting Times in Multi-State Metropolitan Areas," CESifo Working Paper Series 4852, CESifo Group Munich.
    11. Benjamin Hansen & Keaton Miller & Caroline Weber, 2017. "Drug Trafficking Under Partial Prohibition: Evidence from Recreational Marijuana," NBER Working Papers 23762, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Michael Darden & Donna B. Gilleskie & Koleman Strumpf, 2015. "Smoking and Mortality: New Evidence from a Long Panel," Working Papers 1503, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
    13. Kevin Callison & Robert Kaestner, 2014. "Do Higher Tobacco Taxes Reduce Adult Smoking? New Evidence Of The Effect Of Recent Cigarette Tax Increases On Adult Smoking," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 52(1), pages 155-172, January.
    14. Shu Wang & David Merriman & Frank J. Chaloupka, 2016. "Relative Tax Rates, Proximity and Cigarette Tax Noncompliance: Evidence from a National Sample of Littered Cigarette Packs," NBER Working Papers 22577, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. David Agrawal, 2012. "Games within borders: are geographically differentiated taxes optimal?," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 19(4), pages 574-597, August.
    16. David R. Agrawal, 2015. "The Tax Gradient: Spatial Aspects of Fiscal Competition," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 7(2), pages 1-29, May.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H25 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Business Taxes and Subsidies
    • H26 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Tax Evasion and Avoidance
    • H71 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - State and Local Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue

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