Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Yair Listokin (Yale)
presented Ready Benefits at Loyola-L.A. yesterday as part of its Tax Policy Colloquium Series:
Most American social welfare programs have low “take-up rates.” This means that only some of those eligible for each benefit actually receive the benefit. In this Essay, I propose that the government increase social welfare program take-up rates by mailing prefilled “Ready Benefits” to individuals who are likely to be eligible for any social welfare program. Like the “Ready Return” or “Automatic Tax Return” program for income tax, the forms would be pre-filled with the information available to the government and would require “applicants” to fill out only those bits of eligibility information that are either incorrect or are not already known to the government. In particular, the government could rely on income tax returns for those who file income taxes. These “Ready Benefits” would greatly reduce the transaction costs associated with applying for a program. Ready Benefits would also reduce information costs by directly informing likely eligibles of programs for which they probably qualify.
Joseph Bankman (Stanford) was the commentator.