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Mental Accounting Effects of Income Tax Shifting


  • Naomi E. Feldman

    (Ben-Gurion University, Be'er Sheva, Israel)


This paper analyzes a 1992 decrease in U.S. federal income tax withholding that shifted the timing of income tax payments while leaving ultimate tax burdens unchanged. Consequently income typically received as a lump-sum refund on filing a tax return was shifted into the previous year's monthly income. This paper considers the impact of the withholding change in the context of mental accounting and finds a decrease in the probability that households contributed to a tax-preferred retirement account. Additional robustness tests show that short-term saving did not simultaneously increase and that the main findings are not driven by liquidity constraints. © 2010 The President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Suggested Citation

  • Naomi E. Feldman, 2010. "Mental Accounting Effects of Income Tax Shifting," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 92(1), pages 70-86, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:tpr:restat:v:92:y:2010:i:1:p:70-86

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Kaustia, Markku & Rantapuska, Elias, 2012. "Rational and behavioral motives to trade: Evidence from reinvestment of dividends and tender offer proceeds," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 36(8), pages 2366-2378.
    2. Damon Jones, 2012. "Inertia and Overwithholding: Explaining the Prevalence of Income Tax Refunds," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 4(1), pages 158-185, February.
    3. Per Engström & Katarina Nordblom & Henry Ohlsson & Annika Persson, 2015. "Tax Compliance and Loss Aversion," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 7(4), pages 132-164, November.
    4. Justine Hastings & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2012. "Mental Accounting and Consumer Choice: Evidence from Commodity Price Shocks," NBER Working Papers 18248, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Justine S. Hastings & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2017. "How Are SNAP Benefits Spent? Evidence from a Retail Panel," NBER Working Papers 23112, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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