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Tax Refunds and Income Manipulation - Evidence from the EITC

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  • Florian Buhlmann
  • Benjamin Elsner
  • Andreas Peichl

Abstract

Welfare programs are important in terms of reducing poverty, although they create incentives for recipients to maximize their income by either reducing their labor supply or manipulating their taxable income. In this paper, we quantify the extent of such behavioral responses for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) in the US. We exploit the fact that US states can set top-up rates, which means that at a given point in time, workers with the same income receive different tax refunds in different states. Using event studies as well as a border pair design, we document that raising the state EITC leads to more bunching of self-employed tax filers at the first kink point of the tax schedule. While we document a strong relationship up until 2007, we find no effect during the Great Recession. These findings point to important behavioral responses to the largest welfare program in the US.

Suggested Citation

  • Florian Buhlmann & Benjamin Elsner & Andreas Peichl, 2018. "Tax Refunds and Income Manipulation - Evidence from the EITC," Working Papers 201809, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucn:wpaper:201809
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10197/9450
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    1. Li, Jianjun & Wang, Xuan & Wu, Yaping, 2020. "Can government improve tax compliance by adopting advanced information technology? Evidence from the Golden Tax Project III in China," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 93(C), pages 384-397.
    2. Hargaden, Enda Patrick, 2020. "Taxpayer responses in good times and bad," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 176(C), pages 653-690.
    3. Bastani, Spencer & Giebe, Thomas & Miao, Chizheng, 2020. "Ethnicity and tax filing behavior," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 116(C).
    4. Lim, Katherine & Michelmore, Katherine, 2018. "The EITC and self-employment among married mothers," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(C), pages 98-115.
    5. Watson, C. Luke, 2021. "the General Equilibrium Incidence of the Earned Income Tax Credit," SocArXiv 8n3ag, Center for Open Science.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    EITC; Bunching; Income manipulation;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • H20 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - General
    • H24 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Personal Income and Other Nonbusiness Taxes and Subsidies

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