NBER Working Papers by Claus Kreiner

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Working Papers

October 2013Measuring the Accuracy of Survey Responses using Administrative Register Data: Evidence from Denmark
with Claus Thustrup Kreiner, David Dreyer Lassen, Søren Leth-Petersen: w19539
This paper shows how Danish administrative register data can be combined with survey data at the person level and be used to validate information collected in the survey. Register data are collected by automatic third party reporting and the potential errors associated with the two data sources are therefore plausibly orthogonal. Two examples are given to illustrate the potential of combining survey and register data. In the first example expenditure survey records with information about total expenditure are merged with income tax records holding information about income and wealth. Income and wealth data are used to impute total expenditure which is then compared to the survey measure. Results suggest that the two measures match each other well on average. In the second example we compar...
February 2010Unwilling or Unable to Cheat? Evidence from a Randomized Tax Audit Experiment in Denmark
with Henrik J. Kleven, Martin B. Knudsen, Claus T. Kreiner, Søren Pedersen, Emmanuel Saez: w15769
This paper analyzes a randomized tax enforcement experiment in Denmark. In the base year, a stratified and representative sample of over 40,000 individual income tax filers was selected for the experiment. Half of the tax filers were randomly selected to be thoroughly audited, while the rest were deliberately not audited. The following year, "threat-of-audit" letters were randomly assigned and sent to tax filers in both groups. Using comprehensive administrative tax data, we present four main findings. First, we find that the tax evasion rate is very small (0.3%) for income subject to third-party reporting, but substantial (37%) for self-reported income. Since 95% of all income is third-party reported, the overall evasion rate is very modest. Second, using bunching evidence around large an...
August 2009Why Can Modern Governments Tax So Much? An Agency Model of Firms as Fiscal Intermediaries
with Henrik Jacobsen Kleven, Claus Thustrup Kreiner, Emmanuel Saez: w15218
This paper presents a simple agency model to explain why third-party income reporting by employers dramatically improves income tax enforcement. Modern firms have a large number of employees and carry out complex production tasks, which requires the use of accurate business records. Because such records are widely used within the firm, any single employee can denounce collusive tax cheating between employees and the employer by revealing the true records to the government. We show that, if a firm is large enough, such whistleblowing threats will make tax enforcement successful even with low penalties and low audit rates. Embedding this agency model into the standard Allingham-Sandmo tax evasion model, we show that third-party reporting improves tax enforcement if the government disallows s...
November 2006The Optimal Income Taxation of Couples
with Henrik Jacobsen Kleven, Claus Thustrup Kreiner, Emmanuel Saez: w12685
This paper analyzes the optimal income tax treatment of couples. Each couple is modelled as a single rational economic agent supplying labor along two dimensions: primary and secondary earnings. We consider fully general joint income tax systems. Separate taxation is never optimal if social welfare depends on total couple incomes. In a model where secondary earners make only a binary work decision (work or not work), we demonstrate that the marginal tax rate of the primary earner is lower when the spouse works. As a result, the tax distortion on the secondary earner decreases with the earnings of the primary earner and actually vanishes to zero asymptotically. Such negative jointness is optimal because redistribution from two-earner toward one-earner couples is more valuable when primary e...

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