Paying the State Use Tax: Is a “Nudge” Enough?

Source: John E. Anderson, Public Finance Review, Vol 45 Issue 2, 2017
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From the abstract:
To improve use tax compliance, twenty-seven states have added a line to their income tax returns where taxpayers can report taxable sales. This article reports results of a behavioral study of a postcard “nudge” sent to income tax filers in one of those states, Nebraska, to encourage self-reporting of liability. The research question is whether the informational nudge was sufficient to alter self-reporting behavior. Data indicate that the nudge more than doubled the likelihood of use tax reporting and nearly doubled the amount of revenue collected, but the rate of use tax reporting remains extremely low. Probit models reveal that use tax reporting rises with income at a decreasing rate. Selection models are also estimated because of positive selection bias in the selection of the treatment group. Taken together, the results indicate that an informational nudge is not likely to be sufficient to substantially change use tax reporting behavior.