IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

In a World Without Borders: The Impact of Taxes on Internet Commerce

  • Austan Goolsbee

The rapid rise in sales over the Internet has generated debate over the taxation of such transactions since the buyers usually pay no sales tax. This paper uses new data on the purchase decisions of approximately 25,000 online users to examine the effects that local sales taxes have on Internet commerce. The results show that, controlling for many observable characteristics, people who live in locations with high sales taxes are significantly more likely to buy things over the Internet. The estimated tax responsiveness of both participation and spending are large and resemble the tax effects found in previous research on retail sales in geographic border areas. The results are quite robust; the tax sensitivity is clear nationally, within regions, within states, and even within metropolitan areas. Further results suggest that the tax effect cannot be explained by unobserved heterogeneity across cities. The magnitudes in the paper suggest that to apply existing sales taxes to Internet commerce would reduce the number of online buyers by 25% and spending by more than 30% with some specifications suggesting even larger effects.

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:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 6863.

in new window

Date of creation: Dec 1998
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Goolsbee, Austan. "In A World Without Borders: The Impact Of Taxes On Internet Commerce," Quarterly Journal of Economics, 2000, v115(2,May), 561-576.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6863
Note: PE
Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
Phone: 617-868-3900
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

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. Austan Goolsbee, 1998. "Investment Tax Incentives, Prices, And The Supply Of Capital Goods," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 113(1), pages 121-148, February.
  2. Gordon, Roger H, 1983. "An Optimal Taxation Approach to Fiscal Federalism," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 98(4), pages 567-86, November.
  3. Goolsbee, Austan & Klenow, Peter J, 2002. "Evidence on Learning and Network Externalities in the Diffusion of Home Computers," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 45(2), pages 317-43, October.
  4. Galbraith, John W. & Kaiserman, Murray, 1997. "Taxation, smuggling and demand for cigarettes in Canada: Evidence from time-series data," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(3), pages 287-301, June.
  5. Besley, Timothy J. & Rosen, Harvey S., 1999. "Sales Taxes and Prices: An Empirical Analysis," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 52(n. 2), pages 157-78, June.
  6. Mintz, Jack & Tulkens, Henry, 1986. "Commodity tax competition between member states of a federation: equilibrium and efficiency," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(2), pages 133-172, March.
  7. Thomas J. Holmes, 1998. "The Effect of State Policies on the Location of Manufacturing: Evidence from State Borders," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(4), pages 667-705, August.
  8. Poterba, James M., 1996. "Retail Price Reactions to Changes in State and Local Sales Taxes," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 49(2), pages 165-76, June.
  9. Oecd, 1998. "Electronic Commerce: Prices and Consumer Issues for Three Products: Books, Compact Discs and Software," OECD Digital Economy Papers 32, OECD Publishing.
  10. Tom Downes & Shane Greenstein, 2000. "Universal Access and Local Commercial Internet Markets," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0017, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
  11. Trandel, Gregory A., 1992. "Evading the use tax on cross-border sales : Pricing and welfare effects," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(3), pages 313-331, December.
  12. Shane Greenstein, 1998. "Universal Service in the Digital Age: The Commercialization and Geography of U.S. Internet Access," NBER Working Papers 6453, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Ravi Kanbur & Michael Keen, 1991. "Jeux Sans Frontieres: Tax Competition and Tax Coordination when Countries Differ in Size," Working Papers 819, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  14. Jeffrey K. MacKie-Mason & Hal R. Varian, 1994. "Pricing the Internet," Computational Economics 9401002, EconWPA.
  15. Fox, William F. & Murray, Matthew N., 1997. "The Sales Tax and Electronic Commerce: So What's New?," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 50(3), pages 573-92, September.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6863. 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: ()

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.