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The Return To Tax Simplification: an Econometric Analysis

Joel Slemrod ()

Public Finance Review, 1989, vol. 17, issue 1, 3-27

Abstract: This article provides estimates of the probable saving in the resource cost of complying with the tax law that would result from simplifying the individual Abstract income tax law. These estimates are based on an econometric analysis of the tax-filing behavior in 1982 of a sample of Minnesota taxpayers. A simple model of tax-compliance behavior based on utility maximization is first presented in order to suggest the important determinants of compliance behavior. The empirical model treats the discrete choices of whether to itemize deductions and whether to hire professional tax advice, and the choice of how much time and money to spend, conditional on the discrete choices made. Simulations based on the econometric results suggest that significant resource saving could be expected from eliminating the system of itemized deductions, although no significant saving from changing to a single-rate tax structure can be confidently predicted. Results suggest that the Tax Reform Act of 1986 will, in the long run, decrease the use ofprofessional tax assistance, but its net effect on the use of taxpayer's own time is unclear.

Date: 1989
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