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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

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  • 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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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

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    2. Jan-Emmanuel De Neve & Clément Imbert & Johannes Spinnewijn & Teodora Tsankova & Maarten Luts, 2021. "How to Improve Tax Compliance? Evidence from Population-Wide Experiments in Belgium," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 129(5), pages 1425-1463.
    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. Boris Cournède & Jean-Marc Fournier & Peter Hoeller, 2018. "Public finance structure and inclusive growth," OECD Economic Policy Papers 25, OECD Publishing.
    6. Spencer Bastani & Daniel Waldenström, 2020. "The Ability Gradient in Bunching," CESifo Working Paper Series 8233, CESifo.
    7. Charles Boissel & Adrien Matray, 2021. "Dividend Taxes and the Allocation of Capital," Working Papers 2021-39, Princeton University. Economics Department..
    8. Bastani, Spencer & Giebe, Thomas & Miao, Chizheng, 2020. "Ethnicity and tax filing behavior," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 116(C).
    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. 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.
    11. Charlotte Bartels & Cortnie Shupe, 2023. "Drivers of participation elasticities across Europe: gender or earner role within the household?," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 30(1), pages 167-214, February.
    12. Blesse, Sebastian, 2021. "Are your tax problems an opportunity not to pay taxes? Evidence from a randomized survey experiment," ZEW Discussion Papers 21-040, ZEW - Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research.
    13. Zaresani, Arezou, 2020. "Adjustment cost and incentives to work: Evidence from a disability insurance program," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 188(C).
    14. 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).
    15. Charles Delmotte, 2021. "Simple rules and the Political Economy of Income Taxation: the strengths of a uniform expense rule," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 52(2), pages 323-339, December.
    16. Adrien Matray & Charles Boissel, 2020. "Higher Dividend Taxes, No Problem! Evidence from Taxing Entrepreneurs in France," Working Papers 276, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Center for Economic Policy Studies..
    17. Tourek, Gabriel, 2022. "Targeting in tax behavior: Evidence from Rwandan firms," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 158(C).
    18. He, Daixin & Peng, Langchuan & Wang, Xiaxin, 2021. "Understanding the elasticity of taxable income: A tale of two approaches," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 197(C).
    19. Blesse, Sebastian, 2023. "Do your tax problems make tax evasion seem more justifiable? Evidence from a survey experiment," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 78(C).
    20. Lardeux, Raphaël, 2023. "Behavioral cross-influence of a shadow tax bracket: Evidence from bunching where income tax liabilities start," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 226(C).
    21. Lensman, Todd & Troshkin, Maxim, 2022. "Implications of uncertainty for optimal policies," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 199(C).
    22. Gao, Wenjing & Mao, Jie & Shi, Xinzheng, 2024. "Do firms benefit from public information services: Evidence from a tax hotline program in China," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 83(C).
    23. Sydnee Caldwell & Scott Nelson & Daniel C. Waldinger, 2021. "Tax Refund Uncertainty: Evidence and Welfare Implications," Working Papers 2021-18, Becker Friedman Institute for Research In Economics.

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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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