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The Simple Economics of Salience and Taxation

  • Raj Chetty

This paper derives empirically implementable formulas for the incidence and efficiency costs of taxation that account for tax 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. The results are derived using simple supply and demand diagrams and familiar notions of consumer and producer surplus. The approach to welfare analysis proposed here yields robust formulas because it does not require specification of a positive theory for why agents fail to optimize with respect to tax policies.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w15246.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 15246.

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Date of creation: Aug 2009
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15246
Note: LE PE
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  1. Laurence J. Kotlikoff & Lawrence H. Summers, 1986. "Tax Incidence," NBER Working Papers 1864, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    • 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.
  2. de Bartolome, Charles A. M., 1995. "Which tax rate do people use: Average or marginal?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(1), pages 79-96, January.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Blumkin, Tomer & Ruffle, Bradley & Ganun, Yosef, 2010. "Are Income and Consumption Taxes Ever Really Equivalent? Evidence from a Real-Effort Experiment with Real Goods," IZA Discussion Papers 5145, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  6. Xavier Gabaix & David Laibson, 2005. "Shrouded Attributes, Consumer Myopia, and Information Suppression in Competitive Markets," NBER Working Papers 11755, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. 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.).
  8. Green, Jerry & Hojman, Daniel, 2007. "Choice, Rationality and Welfare Measurement," Working Paper Series rwp07-054, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  9. S. Dellavigna., 2011. "Psychology and Economics: Evidence from the Field," VOPROSY ECONOMIKI, N.P. Redaktsiya zhurnala "Voprosy Economiki", vol. 4.
  10. B. Douglas Bernheim & Antonio Rangel, 2008. "Beyond Revealed Preference: Choice Theoretic Foundations for Behavioral Welfare Economics," NBER Working Papers 13737, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Chetty, Nadarajan, 2009. "Sufficient Statistics for Welfare Analysis: A Bridge Between Structural and Reduced-Form Methods," Scholarly Articles 9748528, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  12. Gallagher, Kelly Sims & Muehlegger, Erich, 2011. "Giving green to get green? Incentives and consumer adoption of hybrid vehicle technology," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 61(1), pages 1-15, January.
  13. B. Douglas Bernheim & Antonio Rangel, 2009. "Beyond Revealed Preference: Choice-Theoretic Foundations for Behavioral Welfare Economics-super-," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 124(1), pages 51-104, February.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. Browning, Edgar K, 1987. "On the Marginal Welfare Cost of Taxation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(1), pages 11-23, March.
  17. 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.
  18. Raj Chetty, 2003. "A New Method of Estimating Risk Aversion," NBER Working Papers 9988, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Hausman, J.A. & Newey, W.K., 1992. "Nonparametric Estimation of Exact Consumers Surplus and Deadweight Loss," Working papers 93-2, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  20. 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.
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