I am an Assistant Professor of Economics at UCLA, a Faculty Affiliate at the California Center for Population Research and a Faculty Research Fellow at the NBER.
My work lies at the intersection of Public Finance and Behavioral Economics.
You can download my CV here.
Email: benzarti at econ.ucla.edu
Check out my better half's website here.
[Revised]"What Goes Up May Not Come Down: Asymmetric Incidence of Value Added Taxes" with Dorian Carloni (CBO), Jarkko Harju (VATT) and Tuomas Kosonen (LIER). NBER Working Paper No. 23849.
This paper shows that prices respond more to increases than to decreases in Value-Added Taxes (VATs). First, using two plausibly exogenous VAT changes, we show that prices respond twice as much to VAT increases than to VAT decreases. Second, we show that this asymmetry results in higher equilibrium profits and markups and, therefore, benefits mainly firm owners. Third, we show that the asymmetry persists several years after the VAT changes take place. Fourth, we document additional empirical features of this asymmetry that are inconsistent with standard incidence models. Fifth, using all VAT changes in the European Union from 1996 to 2015, we find similar levels of asymmetry for most commodities in the economy and across most EU countries. Using a survey of firm managers, we provide possible explanations for our empirical findings.
[Revised]“How Taxing Is Tax Filing? Using Reveal Preferences to Estimate Compliance Costs.” NBER Working Paper No. 23903.
Featured in the LA Times, Le Figaro, Time and the NBER Digest.
This paper uses a quasi-experimental design and a novel identification strategy to estimate the cost of filing income taxes. First, using US income tax returns, I observe how taxpayers choose between itemizing deductions and claiming the standard deduction. Taxpayers forgo tax savings to avoid compliance costs, which provides a revealed preference estimate of the compliance cost of itemizing. I find that this cost increases with income, consistent with a higher opportunity cost of time for richer households. Second, using my estimates and estimates of the time required to file other schedules, I estimate the cost of filing federal income taxes. I find that this cost has been increasing since the 1980's and has reached 1.2% of GDP in the most recent years.
"Who Really Benefits From Consumption Tax Cuts? Evidence From a Large VAT Cut in France" with Dorian Carloni (CBO). R&R, AEJ: Economic Policy. NBER Working Paper No. 23848. Vox Summary.
Featured in Alternatives Economiques.
In this paper we evaluate the incidence of a large cut in value-added taxes (VAT) for French sit-down restaurants. In contrast to previous studies that focus on prices only, we estimate its effect on four groups: workers, firm owners, consumers and suppliers of material goods. Using a difference-in-differences strategy on firm-level data we find that: (1) the effect on consumers was limited, (2) employees and sellers of material goods shared 25 and 16 percent of the total benefit, and (3) the reform mostly benefited owners of sit-down restaurants, who pocketed 41 percent of the tax cut.
"Should I Stay Or Should I Go? The Migration Patterns of High-Skilled Workers: Evidence From Alumni Databases."
This paper uses a novel dataset to provide new series on the international migration of high skilled workers educated in France from 1944 to 2012. I use alumni databases to track the location of graduates from leading French post- secondary institutions. The proportion of high skilled individuals working in France has been steadily decreasing from 1944 to 2004. Recent years have seen an increase in the percentage of graduates staying in France in contradiction with the view that high taxes and administrative costs have been leading high skilled workers to leave France.