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Complex Tax Incentives - An Experimental Investigation

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  • Johannes Abeler
  • Simon Jäger

Abstract

How does tax complexity affect people’s reaction to tax changes? To answer this question, we conduct an experiment in which subjects work for a piece rate and face taxes. One treatment features a simple, the other a complex tax system. The payoff-maximizing effort level and the incentives around this optimum are, however, identical across treatments. We introduce the same sequence of additional taxes in both treatments. Subjects in the complex treatment underreact to new taxes; some ignore new taxes entirely. Contrary to predictions from models of rational inattention, subjects are equally likely to ignore large or small incentive changes.

Suggested Citation

  • Johannes Abeler & Simon Jäger, 2013. "Complex Tax Incentives - An Experimental Investigation," CESifo Working Paper Series 4231, CESifo.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_4231
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Vranceanu, Radu & Sutan, Angela & Dubart, Delphine, 2016. "Discontent with taxes and the timing of taxation : experimental evidence," ESSEC Working Papers WP1602, ESSEC Research Center, ESSEC Business School.
    2. Kenan Kalaycı & Marta Serra-Garcia, 2016. "Complexity and biases," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 19(1), pages 31-50, March.
    3. Doerrenberg, Philipp & Duncan, Denvil, 2014. "Tax Incidence in the Presence of Tax Evasion," IZA Discussion Papers 8137, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    4. Avram, Silvia, 2015. "Benefit Losses Loom Larger than Taxes: The Effects of Framing and Loss Aversion on Behavioural Responses to Taxes and Benefits," ISER Working Paper Series 2015-17, Institute for Social and Economic Research.
    5. Kosonen, Tuomas & Ropponen, Olli, 2015. "The role of information in tax compliance: Evidence from a natural field experiment," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 129(C), pages 18-21.
    6. Carpenter, Jeffrey & Matthews, Peter Hans & Tabb, Benjamin, 2016. "Progressive taxation in a tournament economy," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 143(C), pages 64-72.
    7. Jan-Emmanuel De Neve & Cait Lamberton & Michael I. Norton, 2014. "Eliciting Taxpayer Preferences Increases Tax Compliance," CEP Discussion Papers dp1270, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    complexity; taxation; attention; salience; laboratory experiment;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • H31 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Household
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply

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