NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Youssef Benzarti

Department of Economics
University of California, Los Angeles
Bunche Hall, 315 Portola Plaza
Los Angeles, CA 90095

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NBER Program Affiliations: PE
NBER Affiliation: Faculty Research Fellow

NBER Working Papers and Publications

October 2017How Taxing Is Tax Filing? Using Revealed Preferences to Estimate Compliance Costs.
w23903
This paper uses a quasi-experimental design and a novel identification strategy to estimate the cost of filing income taxes. First, using US income tax returns, I observe how taxpayers choose between itemizing deductions and claiming the standard deduction. Taxpayers forgo tax savings to avoid compliance costs, which provides a revealed preference estimate of the compliance cost of itemizing. I find that this cost increases with income, consistent with a higher opportunity cost of time for richer house- holds. Second, using my estimates and estimates of the time required to file other schedules, I estimate the cost of filing federal income taxes. I find that this cost has been increasing since the 1980’s and has reached 1.2% of GDP in the most recent years.
September 2017What Goes Up May Not Come Down: Asymmetric Incidence of Value-Added Taxes
with Dorian Carloni, Jarkko Harju, Tuomas Kosonen: w23849
This paper shows that prices respond more to increases than to decreases in Value-Added Taxes (VATs). First, using all VAT reforms from 1996 to 2015 across all European countries we show that prices respond 3 to 4 times more to VAT increases than decreases. Second, using a plausibly exogenous VAT reform, we show that the asymmetry persists over several years. Third, we document several empirical features of this asymmetry that are inconsistent with the standard incidence model. We provide evidence consistent with firm behavior driving the asymmetry.
Who Really Benefits from Consumption Tax Cuts? Evidence from a Large VAT Reform in France.
with Dorian Carloni: w23848
In this paper we evaluate the incidence of a large cut in value-added taxes (VAT) for French sit-down restaurants. In contrast to previous studies that focus on prices only, we estimate its effect on four groups: workers, firm owners, consumers and suppliers of material goods. Using a difference-in-differences strategy on firm-level data we find that: (1) the effect on consumers was limited, (2) employees and sellers of material goods shared 25 and 16 percent of the total benefit, and (3) the reform mostly benefited owners of sit-down restaurants, who pocketed 41 percent of the tax cut.
 
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