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Can Taxes Shape an Industry? Evidence from the Implementation of the "Amazon Tax"

Brian Baugh, Itzhak Ben-David, Hoonsuk Park

NBER Working Paper No. 20052
Issued in April 2014, Revised in January 2018
NBER Program(s):Corporate Finance, Industrial Organization

For years, online retailers have maintained a price advantage over brick-and-mortar retailers by not collecting sales tax at the time of sale. Recently, several states have required that online retailer Amazon collect sales tax during checkout. Using transaction-level data, we document that households living in these states reduced Amazon purchases by 9.4% after sales tax laws were implemented, implying elasticities ranging from –1.2 to –1.4. The effect is more pronounced for large purchases, for which we estimate a reduction of 29.1% in purchases, corresponding to an elasticity of –3.9. Studying competitors in the electronics field, we detect some evidence of substitution toward competing retailers.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w20052

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