Essays on taxation
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This dissertation contains three chapters that examine various behavioral responses to statutory tax policies. In the first chapter, I develop a framework to estimate the impact of the marriage tax on the likelihood of marriage that incorporates into one analysis all four distinct household alternatives: single, cohabit, married, and separated. This is in contrast to previous works that consider only one of three separate choices. Using data from the March CPS from 1989-1999, I estimate a bivariate probit model and find that the marriage tax has a small, but significant, effect on the likelihood of marriage. Furthermore, my results indicate that studies that do not include all four possible alternatives can overstate by as much as 200% the effect of the marriage tax on the likelihood of marriage. The second chapter considers the net distributional impact of the federal tax deduction for charitable donations. If itemizers, who tend to have higher income than non-itemizers, give to charities that provide goods that they directly use or benefit from (egoism), the government is essentially subsidizing the activities of the high-income donors. Conversely, if itemizers donate to organizations that benefit the needy (altruism), the tax deduction aids in a form of income redistribution. I estimate this tax responsiveness of giving using the Center on Philanthropy Panel Study (COPPS) module of the PSID in 2001 and 2003 for 11 types of charities. Donations by high income individuals to charities that benefit the poor are more price elastic than donations to charities that benefit themselves. I find evidence that the current tax deduction induces itemizers to donate more to charities that benefit the poor than they would have without the deduction. The third chapter estimates the economic incidence of the excise tax on tobacco. Using historical price and tax data from 1954-2005, I estimate what portion of the tax is shifted to consumers. I experiment with controls for border crossing and indoor smoking bans. I find that a 10-cent tax increase causes price to increase by 8 cents immediately and by 13 cents in the long run.