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The effect of tax enforcement on tax elasticities: Evidence from charitable contributions in France

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  • Gabrielle Fack
  • Camille Landais

Abstract

Optimal tax formulas expressed in "sufficient statistics" are usually calibrated under the assumption that the relevant tax elasticities are unaffected by other available policy instruments. In practice though, tax authorities have many more instruments than the mere tax rates and tax elasticities are functions of all these policy instruments. In this paper we provide evidence that tax elasticities are extremely sensitive to a particular policy instrument: the level of tax enforcement. We exploit a natural experiment that took place in France in 1983, when the tax administration tightened the requirements to claim charitable deductions. The reform led to a substantial drop in the amount of contributions reported to the administration, which can be credibly attributed to overreporting of charitable contributions before the reform, rather than to a real change in giving behaviours. We show that the reform was also associated with a substantial decline in the absolute value of the elasticity of reported contributions. This finding allows us to partially identify the elasticity of overreporting contributions, which is shown to be large and inferior to -2 in the lax enforcement regime. We further show using bunching of taxpayers at kink-points of the tax schedule that the elasticity of taxable income also experienced a significant decline after the reform. Our results suggest that optimizing the tax rate for a given tax elasticity when other policy instruments are not optimized can lead to misleading conclusions when tax authorities have another instrument that could set the tax elasticity itself at its optimal level as in Kopczuk and Slemrod [2002].

Suggested Citation

  • Gabrielle Fack & Camille Landais, 2013. "The effect of tax enforcement on tax elasticities: Evidence from charitable contributions in France," Economics Working Papers 1406, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  • Handle: RePEc:upf:upfgen:1406
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Philippe Aghion & Ufuk Akcigit & Matthieu Lequien & Stefanie Stantcheva, 2017. "Tax Simplicity and Heterogeneous Learning," NBER Working Papers 24049, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Paetzold, Jörg & Winner, Hannes, 2016. "Taking the high road? Compliance with commuter tax allowances and the role of evasion spillovers," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 143(C), pages 1-14.
    3. Neisser, Carina, 2017. "The elasticity of taxable income: A meta-regression analysis," ZEW Discussion Papers 17-032, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
    4. Kristoffer Berg & Thor O. Thoresen, 2016. "Problematic response margins in the estimation of the elasticity of taxable income," Discussion Papers 851, Statistics Norway, Research Department.
    5. Berger, Melissa & Fellner-Röhling, Gerlinde & Sausgruber, Rupert & Traxler, Christian, 2016. "Higher taxes, more evasion? Evidence from border differentials in TV license fees," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 135(C), pages 74-86.
    6. repec:spr:chfecr:v:4:y:2016:i:1:d:10.1186_s40589-016-0040-0 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Bittschi, Benjamin & Borgloh, Sarah & Wigger, Berthold U., 2016. "Philanthropy in a secular society," ZEW Discussion Papers 16-021, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
    8. Sara Torregrosa, 2015. "Bypassing progressive taxation: fraud and base erosion in the Spanish income tax (1970-2001)," Working Papers 2015/31, Institut d'Economia de Barcelona (IEB).
    9. repec:kap:jecinq:v:15:y:2017:i:4:d:10.1007_s10888-017-9369-3 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Bittschi, Benjamin & Borgloh, Sarah & Wigger, Berthold, 2015. "Secularization, tax policy and prosocial behavior," Annual Conference 2015 (Muenster): Economic Development - Theory and Policy 113065, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    11. Catalina Tejada & Eliana Ferrara & Henrik Kleven & Florian Blum & Oriana Bandiera & Michel Azulai, 2015. "State Effectiveness, Growth, and Development," Working Papers id:6668, eSocialSciences.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Tax Evasion; Tax Enforcement; Charitable Giving; Taxable Income Elasticity;

    JEL classification:

    • E6 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook

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