No. 54: Biased preferences for wealth taxation: The case of misperceived tax burden consequences

Abstract

The individual capacity to form personal preferences constitutes anessential element of thedemocratic process. At the same time, policies with far-reachingconsequences often requireprofound expertise. Taxation is such an example. Due to its complex character, boundedrationality might induce biases causing other outcomes than intended.This paper quantifiesshifts in stated preferences for wealth taxation caused by misperceived burden consequencesof commonly politically discussed tax parameters: tax allowances and taxrates. For this, weconducted a randomized survey experiment with over 1,200 respondents in Germany. In a 2 by2 design, our respondents were randomly selected to indicate both their preferred tax allowanceand tax rate for either a yearly or a one-time wealth tax. Our treatment group was providedwith easy-to-understand information on the resulting effective lifetime tax burden for the re-spective instrument. We find the preferred effective tax rate todrop by almost 15 percentagepoints for a yearly wealth tax if our participants are fully informed, whereas we do not findthis effect for the one-time wealth tax. In terms ofinformedpreferences our respondents preferthe yearly wealth tax over a one time wealth tax if misperceptions are resolved: the preferredeffective tax burden of a yearly wealth tax is about 25 percentage points higher (40.0% vs.15.2%). While not being able to fully explain the source of this difference, we argue that boththe total burden as well as the reasonability of single payments might befactors that formpreferences for tax parameters.

Participating Institutions

TRR 266‘s main locations are Paderborn University (Coordinating University), HU Berlin, and University of Mannheim. All three locations have been centers for accounting and tax research for many years. They are joined by researchers from LMU Munich, Frankfurt School of Finance and Management, WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management, ESMT Berlin and Goethe University Frankfurt who share the same research agenda.