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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. 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.
  2. Browning, Edgar K, 1987. "On the Marginal Welfare Cost of Taxation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(1), pages 11-23, March.
  3. Looney, Adam & Kroft, Kory & Chetty, Raj, 2009. "Salience and Taxation: Theory and Evidence," Scholarly Articles 9748525, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Stefano DellaVigna, 2007. "Psychology and Economics: Evidence from the Field," NBER Working Papers 13420, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Gallagher, Kelly Sims & Muehlegger, Erich, 2008. "Giving Green to Get Green: Incentives and Consumer Adoption of Hybrid Vehicle Technology," Working Paper Series rwp08-009, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  9. 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 - Economics Institute, Prague.
  10. Alan J. Auerbach, 1982. "The Theory of Excess Burden and Optimal Taxation," NBER Working Papers 1025, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Laibson, David I. & Gabaix, Xavier, 2006. "Shrouded Attributes, Consumer Myopia, and Information Suppression in Competitive Markets," Scholarly Articles 4554333, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  12. Raj Chetty, 2009. "Sufficient Statistics for Welfare Analysis: A Bridge Between Structural and Reduced-Form Methods," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 1(1), pages 451-488, 05.
  13. Green, Jerry & Hojman, Daniel, 2007. "Choice, Rationality and Welfare Measurement," Working Paper Series rwp07-054, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. Raj Chetty, 2003. "A New Method of Estimating Risk Aversion," NBER Working Papers 9988, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Raj Chetty & Emmanuel Saez, 2009. "Teaching the Tax Code: Earnings Responses to an Experiment with EITC Recipients," NBER Working Papers 14836, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  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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