NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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Youssef Benzarti

Department of Economics
University of California
Santa Barbara, CA 93106

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NBER Program Affiliations: PE
NBER Affiliation: Faculty Research Fellow
Institutional Affiliation: University of California at Santa Barbara

NBER Working Papers and Publications

March 2019Does Mandating Social Insurance Affect Entrepreneurial Activity?
with Jarkko Harju, Tuomas Matikka: w25651
This paper estimates the effect of relaxing the social insurance mandate on entrepreneurial activity. We use a unique discontinuity in Finland that allows certain entrepreneurs not to pay social insurance contributions on their income. Using rich administrative data, we find that relaxing the social insurance mandate leads entrepreneurs to significantly reduce their contributions, which they channel instead into their firms. While young firms use this windfall to increase business activity, older ones use it to improve their net lending position by purchasing stocks. Our results imply that the social insurance mandate is binding and its efficiency cost is heterogeneous.
October 2017How Taxing Is Tax Filing? Using Revealed Preferences to Estimate Compliance Costs.
w23903
This paper uses a quasi-experimental design and a novel identification strategy to estimate the cost of filing income taxes. First, using US income tax returns, I observe how taxpayers choose between itemizing deductions and claiming the standard deduction. Taxpayers forgo tax savings to avoid compliance costs, which provides a revealed preference estimate of the compliance cost of itemizing. I find that this cost increases with income, consistent with a higher opportunity cost of time for richer house- holds. Second, using my estimates and estimates of the time required to file other schedules, I estimate the cost of filing federal income taxes. I find that this cost has been increasing since the 1980’s and has reached 1.2% of GDP in the most recent years.
September 2017What Goes Up May Not Come Down: Asymmetric Incidence of Value-Added Taxes
with Dorian Carloni, Jarkko Harju, Tuomas Kosonen: w23849
This paper shows that prices respond more to increases than to decreases in Value-Added Taxes (VATs). First, using two plausibly exogenous VAT changes, we show that prices respond twice as much to VAT increases than to VAT decreases. Second, we show that this asymmetry results in higher equilibrium profits and markups. Third, we find that firms operating with low profit margins are more likely to respond asymmetrically to the VAT changes than firms operating with high profit margins. Fourth, this asymmetry persists several years after the VAT changes take place. Fifth, using all VAT changes in the European Union from 1996 to 2015, we find similar levels of asymmetry.
Who Really Benefits from Consumption Tax Cuts? Evidence from a Large VAT Reform in France.
with Dorian Carloni: w23848
In this paper we evaluate the incidence of a large cut in value-added taxes (VAT) for French sit-down restaurants. In contrast to previous studies that focus on prices only, we estimate its effect on four groups: workers, firm owners, consumers and suppliers of material goods. Using a difference-in-differences strategy on firm-level data we find that: (1) the effect on consumers was limited, (2) employees and sellers of material goods shared 25 and 16 percent of the total benefit, and (3) the reform mostly benefited owners of sit-down restaurants, who pocketed 41 percent of the tax cut.

Published: Youssef Benzarti & Dorian Carloni, 2019. "Who Really Benefits from Consumption Tax Cuts? Evidence from a Large VAT Reform in France," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, vol 11(1), pages 38-63. citation courtesy of

 
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