Social, Behavioral & Experimental Economics (SBEE): Procrastination in the Field: Evidence from Tax Filing

Charlie Sprenger, University of California - San Diego

Charles Sprenger Charles Sprenger
Abstract:
This paper attempts to identify present-biased procrastination in tax filing behavior. Our exercise uses dynamic discrete choice techniques to develop a counterfactual benchmark for filing behavior under the assumption of exponential discounting. Deviations between this counterfactual benchmark and actual behavior provide potential ‘missing-mass’ evidence of present bias. In a sample of around 22,000 low-income tax filers we demonstrate substantial deviations between exponentially-predicted and realized behavior, particularly as the tax deadline approaches. Present biased preferences not only provide qualitatively better in-sample fit than exponential discounting, but also have improved out-of-sample predictive power for responsiveness of filing times to the 2008 Economic Stimulus Act recovery payments. Additional experimental data from around 1100 individuals demonstrates a link between experimentally measured present bias and deviations from exponential discounting in tax filing behavior.
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Lorch Hall - 201

March 2017

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3:30pm - 5:00pm

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