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Tax simplicity and heterogeneous learning

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  • Aghion, Philippe
  • Akcigit, Ufuk
  • Lequien, Matthieu
  • Stantcheva, Stefanie

Abstract

We study the effects of fiscal incentives for self-employment using new French tax data from 1994 to 2012. France serves as a good quasi-laboratory: It has three fiscal regimes - or modes of taxation - for the self-employed, which differ in their financial payoffs and in their administrative simplicity. These regimes have changed extensively over time - offering the opportunity to study how people learn about them and understand them. We find that the self-employed respond to the tax and administrative notches created by the eligibility thresholds: there is strong bunching right before the eligibility thresholds, which we use to estimate self-employed taxable income elasticities and the value of administrative simplicity. Even a small preference for administrative simplicity could explain the bunching observed. There is a sizable cost of tax complexity; agents are not immediately able to understand what the right regime choice is and there is evidence for costly learning over time. The cost of complexity is regressive because it affects mostly the uneducated, low income, and low skill agents. Agents who can be viewed as more informed and knowledgeable (e.g., the more educated or high-skilled) are more likely to make the correct regime choice and to learn faster

Suggested Citation

  • Aghion, Philippe & Akcigit, Ufuk & Lequien, Matthieu & Stantcheva, Stefanie, 2017. "Tax simplicity and heterogeneous learning," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 86613, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:86613
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    Cited by:

    1. Jan-Emmanuel De Neve & Clement Imbert & Maarten Luts & Johannes Spinnewijn & Teodora Tsankova, 2019. "How to improve tax compliance? Evidence from population-wide experiments in Belgium," CEP Discussion Papers dp1621, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    2. Blesse, Sebastian & Buhlmann, Florian & Doerrenberg, Philipp, 2019. "Do people really want a simple tax system? Evidence on preferences towards income tax simplification," ZEW Discussion Papers 19-058, ZEW - Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research.
    3. Jérémy BOCCANFUSO & Antoine FEREY, 2019. "Inattention and the Taxation Bias," Working Papers 2019-16, Center for Research in Economics and Statistics.
    4. Pierce O’Reilly, 2018. "Tax policies for inclusive growth in a changing world," OECD Taxation Working Papers 40, OECD Publishing.
    5. Bastani, Spencer & Giebe, Thomas & Miao, Chizheng, 2020. "Ethnicity and tax filing behavior," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 116(C).
    6. Boris Cournède & Jean-Marc Fournier & Peter Hoeller, 2018. "Public finance structure and inclusive growth," OECD Economic Policy Papers 25, OECD Publishing.
    7. Bastani, Spencer & Waldenström, Daniel, 2020. "The Ability Gradient in Bunching," IZA Discussion Papers 13141, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    8. Youssef Benzarti & Jarkko Harju & Tuomas Matikka, 2020. "Does Mandating Social Insurance Affect Entrepreneurial Activity?," American Economic Review: Insights, American Economic Association, vol. 2(2), pages 255-268, June.
    9. Harju, Jarkko & Matikka, Tuomas & Rauhanen, Timo, 2019. "Compliance costs vs. tax incentives: Why do entrepreneurs respond to size-based regulations?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 173(C), pages 139-164.
    10. Zaresani, Arezou, 2020. "Adjustment cost and incentives to work: Evidence from a disability insurance program," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 188(C).
    11. Bohne, Albrecht & Nimczik, Jan Sebastian, 2018. "Information Frictions and Learning Dynamics: Evidence from Tax Avoidance in Ecuador," IZA Discussion Papers 11536, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    12. Bartels, Charlotte & Shupe, Cortnie, 2018. "Drivers of participation elasticities across Europe: gender or earner role within the household?," EUROMOD Working Papers EM7/18, EUROMOD at the Institute for Social and Economic Research.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    self-employment; taxation; entrepreneurship;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation

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