IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Salience and taxation: theory and evidence

  • Raj Chetty
  • Adam Looney
  • Kory Kroft

This paper presents evidence that consumers underreact to taxes that are not salient and characterizes the welfare consequences of tax policies when agents make such optimization errors. The empirical evidence is based on two complementary strategies. First, we conducted an experiment at a grocery store posting tax inclusive prices for 750 products subject to sales tax for a three week period. Scanner data show that this intervention reduced demand for the treated products by 8 percent. Second, we find that state-level increases in excise taxes (which are included in posted prices) reduce alcohol consumption significantly more than increases in sales taxes (which are added at the register and are hence less salient). We develop simple, empirically implementable formulas for the incidence and efficiency costs of taxation that account for salience effects as well as other optimization errors. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the formulas imply that the economic incidence of a tax depends on its statutory incidence and that a tax can create deadweight loss even if it induces no change in demand. Our method of welfare analysis yields robust results because it does not require specification of a positive theory for why agents fail to optimize with respect to tax policies.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL: http://www.federalreserve.gov/pubs/feds/2009/200911/200911abs.html
Download Restriction: no

File URL: http://www.federalreserve.gov/pubs/feds/2009/200911/200911pap.pdf
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.) in its series Finance and Economics Discussion Series with number 2009-11.

as
in new window

Length:
Date of creation: 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgfe:2009-11
Contact details of provider: Postal: 20th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20551
Web page: http://www.federalreserve.gov/

More information through EDIRC

Order Information: Web: http://www.federalreserve.gov/pubs/feds/fedsorder.html

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Martin Feldstein, 1982. "The Optimal Level of Social Security Benefits," NBER Working Papers 0970, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Amy Finkelstein, 2009. "E-ZTAX: Tax Salience and Tax Rates," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 124(3), pages 969-1010, August.
  3. Eytan Sheshinski, 2000. "Bounded Rationality and Socially Optimal Limits on Choice in a Self-Selection Model," Discussion Paper Series dp330, The Federmann Center for the Study of Rationality, the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, revised Nov 2002.
  4. Gruber, Jonathan, 1994. "The Incidence of Mandated Maternity Benefits," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(3), pages 622-41, June.
  5. Atkinson, A. B. & Stiglitz, J. E., 1976. "The design of tax structure: Direct versus indirect taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(1-2), pages 55-75.
  6. Ted O'Donoghue & Matthew Rabin, 2005. "Optimal Sin Taxes," Levine's Bibliography 784828000000000346, UCLA Department of Economics.
  7. Tomer Blumkin & Bradley J. Ruffle & Yosef Ganun, 2008. "Are Income and Consumption Taxes Ever Really Equivalent? Evidence from a Real-Effort Experiment with Real Goods," Working Papers 0801, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Department of Economics.
  8. Jonathan Gruber & Botond Köszegi, 2001. "Is Addiction "Rational"? Theory And Evidence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 116(4), pages 1261-1303, November.
  9. Manuel Amador & Ivan Werning & George-Marios Angeletos, 2003. "Commitment Vs. Flexibility," NBER Working Papers 10151, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Edward C. Prescott, 2004. "Why Do Americans Work So Much More Than Europeans?," Levine's Bibliography 122247000000000413, UCLA Department of Economics.
  11. Glenn Ellison & Sara Fisher Ellison, 2009. "Search, Obfuscation, and Price Elasticities on the Internet," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 77(2), pages 427-452, 03.
  12. Martin Feldstein, 1993. "The Effect of Marginal Tax Rates on Taxable Income: A Panel Study of the1986 Tax Reform Act," NBER Working Papers 4496, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Jon Gruber & Emmanuel Saez, 2000. "The Elasticity of Taxable Income: Evidence and Implications," NBER Working Papers 7512, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Rudolf KERSCHBAMER & Georg KIRCHSTEIGER, 1997. "Theoretically Robust But Empirically Invalid? An Experimental Investigation into Tax Equivalence," Vienna Economics Papers vie9704, University of Vienna, Department of Economics.
  15. S. Dellavigna., 2011. "Psychology and Economics: Evidence from the Field," VOPROSY ECONOMIKI, N.P. Redaktsiya zhurnala "Voprosy Economiki", vol. 4.
  16. Xavier Gabaix & David Laibson, 2006. "Shrouded Attributes, Consumer Myopia, and Information Suppression in Competitive Markets," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 121(2), pages 505-540, May.
  17. Kotlikoff, Laurence J. & Summers, Lawrence H., 1987. "Tax incidence," Handbook of Public Economics, in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 16, pages 1043-1092 Elsevier.
  18. Eric Anderson & Duncan Simester, 2003. "Effects of $9 Price Endings on Retail Sales: Evidence from Field Experiments," Quantitative Marketing and Economics, Springer, vol. 1(1), pages 93-110, March.
  19. repec:cpi:cpijrn:6.1.2010:i=5496 is not listed on IDEAS
  20. Reis, Ricardo, 2005. "Inattentive Consumers," CEPR Discussion Papers 5053, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  21. Douglas Bernheim & Antonio Rangel, 2007. "Beyond Revealed Preference Choice Theoretic Foundations for Behavioral Welfare Economics," Discussion Papers 07-031, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
  22. Sendhil Mullainathan, 2002. "A Memory-Based Model Of Bounded Rationality," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 117(3), pages 735-774, August.
  23. Gourville, John T, 1998. " Pennies-a-Day: The Effect of Temporal Reframing on Transaction Evaluation," Journal of Consumer Research, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(4), pages 395-408, March.
  24. John Conlisk, 1996. "Why Bounded Rationality?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 34(2), pages 669-700, June.
  25. de Bartolome, Charles A.M., 1991. "Which Tax Rate Do People Use: Average or Marginal?," Working Papers 91-49, C.V. Starr Center for Applied Economics, New York University.
  26. Mirko Wiederholt & Bartosz Mackowiak, 2005. "Optimal Sticky Prices under Rational Inattention," 2005 Meeting Papers 369, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  27. Slemrod, Joel, 2006. "The Role of Misconceptions in Support for Regressive Tax Reform," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 59(1), pages 57-75, March.
  28. A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), 1985. "Handbook of Public Economics," Handbook of Public Economics, Elsevier, edition 1, volume 1, number 1.
  29. Raj Chetty, 2009. "The Simple Economics of Salience and Taxation," NBER Working Papers 15246, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  30. Shafir, Eldar & Diamond, Peter & Tversky, Amos, 1997. "Money Illusion," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(2), pages 341-74, May.
  31. Meghan Busse & Jorge Silva-Risso & Florian Zettelmeyer, 2006. "$1,000 Cash Back: The Pass-Through of Auto Manufacturer Promotions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(4), pages 1253-1270, September.
  32. Akerlof, George A & Yellen, Janet L, 1985. "Can Small Deviations from Rationality Make Significant Differences to Economic Equilibria?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(4), pages 708-20, September.
  33. Conlisk, John, 1988. "Optimization cost," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 9(3), pages 213-228, April.
  34. Philip J. Cook & Jan Ostermann & Frank A. Sloan, 2005. "Are Alcohol Excise Taxes Good For Us? Short and Long-Term Effects on Mortality Rates," NBER Working Papers 11138, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  35. Raj Chetty, 2003. "A New Method of Estimating Risk Aversion," NBER Working Papers 9988, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  36. Sims, Christopher A., 2003. "Implications of rational inattention," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(3), pages 665-690, April.
  37. Auerbach, Alan J., 1985. "The theory of excess burden and optimal taxation," Handbook of Public Economics, in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 2, pages 61-127 Elsevier.
  38. Feldstein, Martin, 1995. "Effect of Marginal Tax Rates on Taxable Income: A Panel Study of the 1986 Tax Reform Act," Scholarly Articles 2766676, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  39. Austan Goolsbee, 1997. "What Happens When You Tax the Rich? Evidence from Executive Compensation," NBER Working Papers 6333, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  40. Stefano DellaVigna & Joshua M. Pollet, 2005. "Attention, Demographics, and the Stock Market," NBER Working Papers 11211, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  41. Naomi E. Feldman & Peter Katuscak, 2006. "Should the Average Tax Rate Be Marginalized?," CERGE-EI Working Papers wp304, The Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education - Economic Institute, Prague.
  42. Jennifer Brown & Tanjim Hossain & John Morgan, 2010. "Shrouded Attributes and Information Suppression: Evidence from the Field," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 125(2), pages 859-876, May.
  43. Raj Chetty & Adam Looney & Kory Kroft, 2007. "Salience and Taxation: Theory and Evidence," NBER Working Papers 13330, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  44. Emmanuel Saez, 2004. "Reported Incomes and Marginal Tax Rates, 1960-2000: Evidence and Policy Implications," NBER Working Papers 10273, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  45. Hossain Tanjim & Morgan John, 2006. "...Plus Shipping and Handling: Revenue (Non) Equivalence in Field Experiments on eBay," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 5(2), pages 1-30, January.
  46. Steven J. Davis & Magnus Henrekson, 2006. "Economic Performance and Work Activity in Sweden after the Crisis of the Early 1990s," NBER Working Papers 12768, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  47. Browning, Edgar K, 1987. "On the Marginal Welfare Cost of Taxation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(1), pages 11-23, March.
  48. Marianne Bertrand & Esther Duflo & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2002. "How Much Should We Trust Differences-in-Differences Estimates?," NBER Working Papers 8841, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  49. Krishna, Aradhna & Slemrod, Joel, 2003. "Behavioral Public Finance: Tax Design As Price Presentation," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer, vol. 10(2), pages 189-203, March.
  50. Emmanuel Saez, 1999. "Do Taxpayers Bunch at Kink Points?," NBER Working Papers 7366, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  51. Hausman, Jerry A & Joskow, Paul L, 1982. "Evaluating the Costs and Benefits of Appliance Efficiency Standards," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(2), pages 220-25, May.
  52. Mankiw, N Gregory, 1985. "Small Menu Costs and Large Business Cycles: A Macroeconomic Model," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 100(2), pages 529-38, May.
  53. Mirrlees, James A, 1971. "An Exploration in the Theory of Optimum Income Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 38(114), pages 175-208, April.
  54. Fujii, Edwin T & Hawley, Clifford B, 1988. "On the Accuracy of Tax Perceptions," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 70(2), pages 344-47, May.
  55. Rosen, Harvey S, 1976. "Taxes in a Labor Supply Model with Joint Wage-Hours Determination," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 44(3), pages 485-507, May.
  56. Xavier Gabaix & David Laibson & Guillermo Moloche & Stephen Weinberg, 2006. "Costly Information Acquisition: Experimental Analysis of a Boundedly Rational Model," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(4), pages 1043-1068, September.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is featured on the following reading lists or Wikipedia pages:

  1. Salience and Taxation: Theory and Evidence (AER 2009) in ReplicationWiki
  2. Raj Chetty in Wikipedia German ne '')

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:fip:fedgfe:2009-11. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Kris Vajs)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.