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We exploit individual panel information from introducing of new and simpler tax regimes for the self-employed in France, in order to assess the extent to which individuals' shift towards the new regimes is driven by a quest for tax simplicity, and the extent to which the demand for tax simplicity is itself at least partly driven by tax evasion motives. We find evidence of a quest for tax simplicity from observing a significant amount of bunching at the eligibility thresholds for the simpler self-employment tax regimes and from the fact that bunching is increasing in the degree of simplicity of the self-employment regime. We also argue that tax evasion plays an important role in accounting for individuals' attraction towards simpler tax regimes. Finally, we quantitatively assess the importance of simplicity and evasion motives for choosing a simpler self-employment regime. More precisely, we combine bunching estimates and a structural model to jointly estimate the real income elasticities, the value of tax simplicity, and the evasion elasticity. We find that the parameters values which generate the best fit with the observed bunching across different tax brackets and years, imply noticeable preference for tax simplicity with a sizeable evasion elasticity behind it, and a negligible real income elasticity.
Philippe Aghion, Ufuk Akcigit, Maxime Gravoueille, Matthieu Lequien and Stefanie Stantcheva
5 May 2023 Paper Number POIDWP050
Download PDF - Tax simplicity or simplicity of evasion? Evidence from self-employment taxes in France