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The Return to Tax Simplification: An Econometric Analysis

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  • Joel Slemrod

Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to provide estimates of the probable saving in the resource cost of complying with the tax law that would result from simplifying the individual income tax law. These estimates are based on an econometric analysis of the tax filing behavior in 1982 of a sample of Minnesota taxpayers. A simple model of tax compliance behavior based on utility maximization is first presented in order to suggest the important determinants of compliance behavior. The empirical model treats the discrete choices of whether to itemize deductions and whether to hire professional tax advice, and the choice of how much time and money to spend, conditional on the discrete choices made. Simulations based on the econometric results suggest that significant resource saving could be expected from eliminating the system of itemized deductions, although no significant saving from changing to a single-rate tax structure can be confidently predicted.

Suggested Citation

  • Joel Slemrod, 1985. "The Return to Tax Simplification: An Econometric Analysis," NBER Working Papers 1756, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:1756
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Stiglitz, Joseph E., 1982. "Utilitarianism and horizontal equity : The case for random taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 1-33, June.
    2. Weiss, Laurence, 1976. "The Desirability of Cheating Incentives and Randomness in the Optimal Income Tax," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 84(6), pages 1343-1352, December.
    3. Joel Slemrod & Nikki Sorum, 1984. "The Compliance Cost of the U.S. Individual Income Tax System," NBER Working Papers 1401, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Lee, Lung-fei & Maddala, G S & Trost, R P, 1980. "Asymptotic Covariance Matrices of Two-Stage Probit and Two-Stage Tobit Methods for Simultaneous Equations Models with Selectivity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 48(2), pages 491-503, March.
    5. Allingham, Michael G. & Sandmo, Agnar, 1972. "Income tax evasion: a theoretical analysis," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 1(3-4), pages 323-338, November.
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    Cited by:

    1. Mendoza, Ronald U. & Canare, Tristan A. & Ang, Alvin, 2015. "Doing Business: A Review of Literature and Its Role in APEC 2015," Research Paper Series DP 2015-37, Philippine Institute for Development Studies.
    2. Eichfelder, Sebastian & Hechtner, Frank, 2016. "Tax compliance costs: Cost burden and cost reliability," arqus Discussion Papers in Quantitative Tax Research 212, arqus - Arbeitskreis Quantitative Steuerlehre.
    3. Slemrod, Joel, 1990. "Optimal Taxation and Optimal Tax Systems," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 4(1), pages 157-178, Winter.
    4. Kotakorpi Kaisa & Laamanen Jani-Petri, 2016. "Prefilled Income Tax Returns and Tax Compliance: Evidence from a Natural Experiment," Working Papers 1604, University of Tampere, School of Management, Economics.
    5. Blaufus, Kay & Hechtner, Frank & Möhlmann, Axel, 2014. "The effect of tax preparation expenses for employees: Evidence from Germany," arqus Discussion Papers in Quantitative Tax Research 157, arqus - Arbeitskreis Quantitative Steuerlehre.
    6. J. Pope & R. Fayle, 1993. "The Compliance Costs of Taxation in Australia and Tax Simplification," Economics Discussion / Working Papers 93-25, The University of Western Australia, Department of Economics.
    7. Vaillancourt, François & Hébert, Martine, 1990. "Les déclarations d’impôts personnels des Québécois pour l’année 1985 : qui les complète et à quel coût?," L'Actualité Economique, Société Canadienne de Science Economique, vol. 66(2), pages 242-259, juin.
    8. James Alm, 2014. "Does an uncertain tax system encourage üaggressive tax planningý?," Economic Analysis and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 44(1), pages 30-38.
    9. Youssef Benzarti, 2017. "How Taxing Is Tax Filing? Using Revealed Preferences to Estimate Compliance Costs," NBER Working Papers 23903, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Keen, Michael & Slemrod, Joel, 2017. "Optimal tax administration," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 152(C), pages 133-142.
    11. Eichfelder, Sebastian & Vaillancourt, François, 2014. "Tax compliance costs: A review of cost burdens and cost structures," arqus Discussion Papers in Quantitative Tax Research 178, arqus - Arbeitskreis Quantitative Steuerlehre.
    12. De Fiore, Fiorella, 2000. "The optimal inflation tax when taxes are costly to collect," Working Paper Series 0038, European Central Bank.
    13. Joel Slemrod, 1985. "The Impact of Tax Reform on Households," NBER Working Papers 1765, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Mendoza, Ronald U. & Canare, Tristan A. & Ang, Alvin, 2015. "Doing Business: A Review of Literature and Its Role in APEC 2015," Discussion Papers DP 2015-37, Philippine Institute for Development Studies.
    15. J. Pope & C. Dongling, 1993. "Determinants of the Time Taken to Deal with Personal Income Tax Affairs in Australia," Economics Discussion / Working Papers 93-11, The University of Western Australia, Department of Economics.
    16. Sebastian Eichfelder & François Vaillancourt, 2014. "Tax Compliance Costs: A Review of Cost Burdens and Cost Structures," Hacienda Pública Española, IEF, vol. 210(3), pages 111-148, September.

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