NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Accuracy, Complexity, and the Income Tax

Louis Kaplow

NBER Working Paper No. 4631 (Also Reprint No. r2226)
Issued in January 1994
NBER Program(s):   PE

The complexity of the income tax is an unending source of complaint. Compliance costs have received increasing attention and are estimated to be large. Yet most recognize that some degree of complexity is necessary if ability to pay is to be measured accurately. This article presents a framework for analyzing the value of greater accuracy in income taxation. Formulations for both distributive and incentive benefits of accuracy are offered. The question whether taxpayers have excessive or inadequate incentives to acquire information about taxable income and to challenge tax assessments is also examined.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w4631

Published: Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, vol. 14, no. 1, pp. 61-83, 1998.

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