NBER

Anders Jensen

Harvard Kennedy School
79 JFK Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
Tel: 857/272-9833

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NBER Program Affiliations: PE
NBER Affiliation: Faculty Research Fellow
Institutional Affiliation: Harvard University

NBER Working Papers and Publications

June 2020Informality, Consumption Taxes, and Redistribution
with Pierre Bachas, Lucie Gadenne: w27429
Can consumption taxes reduce inequality in developing countries? We combine household expenditure data from 31 countries with theory to shed new light on the redistributive potential and optimal design of consumption taxes. We use the type of store in which purchases occur to proxy for informal (untaxed) consumption. This enables us to characterize the informality Engel curve: we find that the budget share spent in the informal sector steeply declines with income, in all countries. The informal sector thus makes consumption taxes progressive: households in the richest quintile face an effective tax rate that is twice that of the poorest quintile. We extend the standard optimal commodity tax model to allow for informal consumption and calibrate it to the data to study the effects of differe...
February 2019Norms, Enforcement, and Tax Evasion
with Timothy Besley, Torsten Persson: w25575
This paper studies individual and social motives in tax evasion. We build a simple dynamic model that incorporates these motives and their interaction. The social motives underpin the role of norms and is the source of the dynamics that we study. Our empirical analysis exploits the adoption in 1990 of a poll tax to fund local government in the UK, which led to widespread evasion. The evidence is consistent with the model's main predictions on the dynamics of evasion.
January 2019Employment Structure and the Rise of the Modern Tax System
w25502
This paper studies how the transition from self-employment to employee-jobs over the long run of development explains growth in income tax capacity. I construct a new database which covers 100 household surveys across countries at different income levels and 140 years of historical data within the US (1870-2010). Using these data, I first establish four new stylized facts: 1) within country, the share of employees increases over the income distribution, and increases at all levels of income as a country develops; 2) the income tax exemption threshold moves down the income distribution as a country develops, tracking employee growth; 3) the employee share above the tax exemption threshold is maximized and remains constantly high; 4) movements in the tax exemption threshold account for the o...

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