Lockwood, Benjamin B
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PublicationA Pilot Study of Uncertainty in Income Tax Forecasts(2018-10-15) Joung, Andrew; Lockwood, Benjamin; Rees-Jones, AlexHow confidently can taxpayers forecast the tax bill that they will face? We asked survey respondents to provide both point estimates and subjective probability distributions of items from the tax return that they will submit the following April. In a pilot study, consisting of a sample of 188 participants from Amazon Mechanical Turk, we find evidence of substantial uncertainty over both the final tax and its determinants. We discuss the implications of this uncertainty for both tax policy and economic modeling. PublicationSufficient Statistics for Nonlinear Tax Systems with Preference Heterogeneity(2021-12-01) Ferey, Antoine; Lockwood, Benjamin B; Taubinsky, DmitryThis paper provides general and empirically implementable sufficient statistics formulas for optimal nonlinear tax systems in the presence of preference heterogeneity. We study unrestricted tax systems on income and savings (or other commodities) that implement the optimal directrevelation mechanism, as well as simpler tax systems that impose common restrictions like separability between earnings and savings taxes. We characterize the optimum using familiar elasticity concepts and a sufficient statistic for across-income preference heterogeneity: the difference between the cross-sectional variation of savings with income, and the causal effect of income on savings. The Atkinson-Stiglitz Theorem is a knife-edge case corresponding to zero difference, and a number of other key results in optimal tax theory are subsumed as special cases. Our formulas also apply to other sources of across-income heterogeneity, including heterogeneity in rates of return on savings, inheritances, and the ability to shift income between tax bases. We provide tractable extensions of these results that include multidimensional heterogeneity, additional efficiency rationales for taxing heterogeneous returns, and corrective motives to encourage more saving. Applying these formulas in a calibrated model of the U.S. economy, we find that the optimal savings tax is positive and progressive.