PUBLISHED PAPERS


Goodman, Lucas, Katherine Lim, Bruce Sacerdote, and Andrew Whitten (2023). Automatic Tax Filing: Simulating a Pre-Populated Form 1040. National Tax Journal, 76:4, pp. 805-838.

       *media: vox, wall street journal


Mortenson, Jacob A., and Andrew Whitten (2020). Bunching to Maximize Tax Credits: Evidence from Kinks in the U.S. Tax Schedule. American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, 12:3, pp. 402-32.

       *replication files and online appendix: here

       *code: .ado file to estimate bunching

       *media: wall street journal


​Mortenson, Jacob A., Heidi R. Schramm, and Andrew Whitten (2019). The Effects of Required Minimum Distribution Rules on Withdrawals from Traditional IRAs. National Tax Journal, 72:3, pp. 507-542.

       *online appendix: here

       *winner of the 2019 Richard A. Musgrave Prize for best article in the National Tax Journal​.

WORKING PAPERS


(2023) Financial Inclusion Across the United States

coauthors: Moto Yogo and Natalie Cox


We study retirement and bank account participation for the universe of U.S. households aged 50 to 59 in the administrative tax data. In the lowest income quintile in 2019, 21 and 70 percent of households had retirement and bank accounts, respectively. For the same group, 38 percent of households had access to an employer retirement plan. Geographic variation in financial participation primarily relates to income rather than racial composition. By instrumental variables, we estimate the causal effect of access to an employer retirement plan. Universal access with automatic enrollment could increase retirement account participation by 17 percentage points in the lowest income quintile over ten years.​



(2023) How Do Business Owners Respond to a Tax Cut? Examining the 199A Deduction for Pass-through Firms

coauthors: Lucas Goodman, Katie Lim, and Bruce Sacerdote

       *media: tax notes


We measure the short- and medium-run responses of businesses and their owners to Section 199A, a deduction that reduced the effective tax rate on most U.S. pass-through business income beginning in 2018. Using tax records of individuals and businesses, we compare taxpayers with exogenously differing levels of exposure to the deduction, exploiting limitations within the statute. We find little evidence of an increase in reported business income eligible for the deduction during 2018 or 2019. With appropriate caveats about parallel trends in the disruptive COVID period, we also find no effect in 2020 and at most a modest effect in 2021. We do find some evidence of effects on specific hypothesized margins of adjustment. Partnerships reduced ineligible forms of compensation paid to owners by approximately 10 percent, in line with the incentives created by 199A, while S corporations reduced wage compensation to owners by at most 3 percent. We find no evidence that 199A encouraged movements from employee to contractor status or increased contractor activity in 2018. Finally, we find little evidence of changes in real economic activity as measured by physical investment, wages to non-owners, or employment.​


(2023) The Secular Decline in Private Firm Leverage

coauthors: Aymeric Bellon, Christine Dobridge, and Erik Gilje


Using firm-level administrative tax data, we document dramatic reductions in private leverage since the Global Financial Crisis, while leverage among public firms rose during this period. Changing firm characteristics are unable to account for this pattern. Younger and smaller private firms experience large declines in leverage. Reduced leverage among private firms is correlated with lower investment. The decline in private firm leverage and investment is strongly related to plausibly exogenous increases in local area bank capital requirements. Our findings suggest that banks’ credit supply plays a prominent role in explaining the leverage pattern of private firms.


(2022) IPOs and Corporate Tax Planning

coauthors: Christine Dobridge and Becky Lester


Does going public affect the amount and type of corporate tax planning? Using a panel of U.S. corporate tax return data from 1994 to 2018, we show that IPO completion is associated with the implementation of multinational income shifting strategies central to the current international tax policy debate. Specifically, firms (i) expand their foreign tax haven presence, (ii) enter into cross-border agreements that accompany intangible asset transfers to foreign subsidiaries, and (iii) increase their level of foreign related-party payments around the time that they go public. The effects are strongest among firms that switch to more sophisticated tax advisors in the years preceding the IPO. In contrast, we observe little domestic tax planning because large stock option deductions, which increase as a consequence of the IPO, provide large domestic tax shields. The paper contributes to the nascent tax literature studying IPOs by documenting the specific tax strategies enabling public firms to remain lightly taxed in the post-IPO period. Furthermore, the findings imply that U.S. tax policies targeted at early-stage innovative firms are critical for retaining domestically-developed IP – and the income earned on such assets – for the U.S. tax base.



(2016) Estimating the Elasticity of Broad Income for High-Income Taxpayers

coauthors: Laura Kawano and Caroline Weber


This paper precisely estimates the elasticity of broad income (EBI) with respect to the marginal net-of-tax rate for high-income taxpayers. We study the introduction of a new top income tax bracket in 2013 using a large panel of high-income taxpayers drawn from administrative tax records. Our estimation strategy – inverse probability weighting – takes into account the tremendous income volatility experienced by high-income taxpayers. We obtain an intent-to-treat (ITT) EBI of 0.013. After rescaling to account for taxpayers crossing the top income tax bracket threshold, we obtain a treatment-effect-on-the-treated elasticity that is bounded below by the ITT estimate and above by 0.034.

DORMANT PAPERS


(2019) Simulating the 199A Deduction for Pass-through Owners

coauthors: Lucas Goodman, Katie Lim, and Bruce Sacerdote


We analyze the new Section 199A deduction for pass-through income using a representative sample of administrative data from tax year 2016. We identify the taxpayers who would have benefited from the pass-through deduction had it applied in 2016. The analysis uses taxpayers' reported income, abstracting from behavioral responses, and applies key aspects of 2018 tax code. We do not attempt to model any potential economic growth spurred by 199A, nor do we model the economic incidence of the deduction. The estimated tax savings from the deduction, measured in 2018 dollars, is $34.5 billion. The majority of the beneficiaries of the deduction are in the bottom 80 percent of the income distribution. However, 60 percent of pass-through income, and 72 percent of the statutory benefit of the passthrough deduction, accrues to taxpayers in the top five percent of adjusted gross income (above roughly $208,000). Without the 199A guardrails, we estimate that this group would receive 83 percent of the statutory benefit.



(2018) The Absence of Income Effects at the Onset of Child Tax Benefits

coauthors: Jake Mortenson, Heidi Schramm, and Lin Xu


We study the effects of quasi-random variation in unearned income on labor force participation, earnings, business income, capital gains realizations, retirement savings, and unemployment compensation. To identify these income effects, we exploit an age discontinuity in the federal tax system: parents whose children are born in December of year t-1 can claim child-related tax benefits for that year, whereas otherwise-similar parents whose children are born in January of year t cannot. We use a panel of administrative tax data comprised of the universe of married households with a child born in December or January in years 2001 through 2013. Over this period, the average child tax benefit was about $1,800. Using a regression discontinuity research design, we find approximately zero treatment effects on the intensive and extensive margin for all outcome variables studied. Our results are consistent with precise zero income effects and suggest that households do not learn about (and respond to) child tax benefits in the first year they are claimed.


(2016) Optimal Taxation of Internalities: The Role of Market Incentives


This paper analyzes the optimal taxation of goods when consumers fail to maximize their own utility, imposing internalities on themselves. This can happen due to imperfect information, cognitive bias, or lack of willpower, among other causes. I relax two ubiquitous assumptions found in other work on this topic by studying imperfect competition and the incentive firms have to de-bias consumers. Contrary to standard results, I find that (i) internality correction, even if costless, is not always desirable; (ii) optimal tax rates are generally not equal to marginal internalities; and (iii) firm de-biasing incentives attenuate the optimal internality tax or subsidy.