NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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The Costs of Corporate Tax Complexity

Eric Zwick

NBER Working Paper No. 24382
Issued in March 2018
NBER Program(s):The Corporate Finance Program, The Monetary Economics Program, The Public Economics Program

Does tax code complexity alter corporate behavior? This paper investigates this question by focusing on the decision to claim refunds for tax losses. In a sample of 1.2M observations from the population of corporate tax returns, only 37% of eligible firms claim their refund. A simple cost-benefit analysis of the tax loss choice cannot explain low take-up, which motivates an investigation of how tax complexity alters this calculation. A research design exploiting tax preparer switches, deaths, and relocations shows that sophisticated preparers increase the claiming behavior of small and mid-market firms. Tax complexity decreases take-up among large firms through interactions of refund claims with other tax code provisions and with the audit process.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w24382

 
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