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Do people really want a simple tax system? Evidence on preferences towards income tax simplification

Author

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  • Blesse, Sebastian
  • Buhlmann, Florian
  • Doerrenberg, Philipp

Abstract

Using new survey and experimental data for a representative sample of the German population, we study preferences for tax simplification. The general wisdom seems to suggest that most tax systems are overly complex and that tax simplification is generally desirable. Consistent with this general wisdom, we find that more than 90% of our sample believe that the tax system needs to be simplified. However, there also are efficiency and equity arguments in support of a certain degree of tax complexity and it is puzzling why tax systems remain highly complex despite the conventional view in favor of more simplification. The main purpose of our study then is to investigate if the high support for tax simplification is driven by a lack of awareness about the trade-offs behind simple and complex tax systems. Our data show that the support for simplification decreases as we randomly provide economic arguments against simplification and as we ask respondents if the tax system should account for specific differences in living situations (such as costly care of elderly family members). Overall, our findings suggest that the high support for simpler taxes is to some extent driven by a lack of awareness about the implications of tax simplification.

Suggested Citation

  • Blesse, Sebastian & Buhlmann, Florian & Doerrenberg, Philipp, 2019. "Do people really want a simple tax system? Evidence on preferences towards income tax simplification," ZEW Discussion Papers 19-058, ZEW - Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:zewdip:19058
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Haaland, Ingar & Roth, Christopher & Wohlfart. Johannes, 2020. "Designing Information Provision Experiments," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 1275, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
    2. Hoppe, Thomas & Schanz, Deborah & Sturm, Susann & Sureth, Caren & Voget, Johannes, 2020. "The relation between tax complexity and foreign direct investment: Evidence across countries," arqus Discussion Papers in Quantitative Tax Research 250, arqus - Arbeitskreis Quantitative Steuerlehre.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Tax Complexity; Preferences Towards Tax Simplification; Randomized Survey Experiment;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • H2 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • C9 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments

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