TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Designing Commodity Taxes for Inattentive Consumers

Jacob Goldin (J.D. 2013, Yale), Sales Tax Not Included: Designing Commodity Taxes for Inattentive Consumers, 122 Yale L.J. 1109 (2012):

A spate of new research suggests that the salience of a tax dramatically shapes taxpayer behavior: the more salient a tax—i.e., the more prominent a good’s after-tax price—the more taxpayers respond. Policymakers make decisions about tax salience, whether they intend to or not, every time they impose a new tax, yet the normative implications of those decisions remain poorly understood. This Note derives new guidelines for how policymakers can manipulate tax salience to promote efficiency. In particular, I show how levying a combination of high- and low-salience taxes can raise consumer welfare and further other social goals.

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