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Teaching the Tax Code: Earnings Responses to an Experiment with EITC Recipients

  • Raj Chetty
  • Emmanuel Saez

This paper tests whether providing information about the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) affects EITC recipients' earnings decisions. We conducted a randomized experiment with 43,000 EITC recipients at H&R Block in which tax preparers gave simple, personalized information about the EITC schedule to half of their clients. We find no significant effects of information provision on earnings in the subsequent year in the full sample. Further exploration uncovers evidence of heterogeneous treatment effects on both self-employment income and wage earnings across the 1,461 tax professionals who assisted the clients involved in the experiment. We conclude that providing information about tax incentives through tax preparers does not systematically affect earnings on average. However, tax preparers may be able to influence their clients' earnings decisions by providing advice about how to respond to tax incentives. 

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w14836.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14836.

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Date of creation: Apr 2009
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Publication status: published as Raj Chetty & Emmanuel Saez, 2013. "Teaching the Tax Code: Earnings Responses to an Experiment with EITC Recipients," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 5(1), pages 1-31, January.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14836
Note: LS PE
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  1. Justine S. Hastings & Jeffrey M. Weinstein, 2008. "Information, School Choice, and Academic Achievement: Evidence from Two Experiments," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 123(4), pages 1373-1414, November.
  2. Marianne Bitler & Jonah Gelbach & Hilary Hoynes, 2003. "What Mean Impacts Miss: Distributional Effects of Welfare Reform Experiments," NBER Working Papers 10121, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Nada Eissa & Jeffrey B. Liebman, 1995. "Labor Supply Response to the Earned Income Tax Credit," NBER Working Papers 5158, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Bruce D. Meyer & Dan T. Rosenbaum, 2001. "Welfare, The Earned Income Tax Credit, And The Labor Supply Of Single Mothers," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 116(3), pages 1063-1114, August.
  5. Nada Eissa & Hilary W. Hoynes, 2006. "Behavioral Responses to Taxes: Lessons from the EITC and Labor Supply," NBER Chapters, in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 20, pages 73-110 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. V. Joseph Hotz, 2003. "The Earned Income Tax Credit," NBER Chapters, in: Means-Tested Transfer Programs in the United States, pages 141-198 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Esther Duflo & William Gale & Jeffrey Liebman & Peter Orszag & Emmanuel Saez, 2005. "Saving Incentives for Low- and Middle-Income Families: Evidence from a Field Experiment with H&R Block," NBER Working Papers 11680, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Eissa, Nada & Hoynes, Hilary Williamson, 2004. "Taxes and the labor market participation of married couples: the earned income tax credit," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(9-10), pages 1931-1958, August.
  9. Emmanuel Saez & Esther Duflo, 2003. "The role of information and social interactions in retirement plan decisions: Evidence from a randomized experiment," Framed Field Experiments 00141, The Field Experiments Website.
  10. Jesse Rothstein, 2005. "The Mid-1990s EITC Expansion: Aggregate Labor Supply Effects and Economic Incidence," Working Papers 883, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  11. Raj Chetty & Adam Looney & Kory Kroft, 2009. "Salience and taxation: theory and evidence," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2009-11, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  12. Jonah E. Rockoff, 2004. "The Impact of Individual Teachers on Student Achievement: Evidence from Panel Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 247-252, May.
  13. Emmanuel Saez, 1999. "Do Taxpayers Bunch at Kink Points?," NBER Working Papers 7366, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Esther Duflo & Emmanuel Saez, 2002. "The Role of Information and Social Interactions in Retirement Plan Decisions: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment," NBER Working Papers 8885, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Jeffrey B. Liebman, 1998. "The Impact of the Earned Income Tax Credit on Incentives and Income Distribution," NBER Chapters, in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 12, pages 83-120 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Brannas, Kurt & Karlsson, Niklas, 1996. "Estimating the perceived tax scale within a labor supply model," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 52(1), pages 75-79, July.
  17. 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.
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