We exploit a large, quasi-randomized, 2.5-year-long income tax holiday to identify intertemporal labor responses of high-wage earners to net wage changes. In August 2013, the Argentine government exempted a group of wage earners from the income tax for 2.5 years while leaving in place the tax on other high-wage earners. Eligibility was based on whether past wage earnings were below a fixed threshold, thus levying sharply different marginal and average tax rates—effectively 0% for workers below the threshold. Using rich population-wide administrative data and a regression discontinuity design, we estimate a precise and very small wage earnings elasticity of 0.017 for this large, salient, and temporary income tax change. Responses are larger for more flexible outcomes (overtime hours) and for more elastic groups (job switchers and managers). We also find avoidance responses from new entrants who faced no tax if their first monthly wage was below the fixed threshold. This strategic entry below the threshold to dodge taxes required coordination with employers. Our findings indicate rigidities in the labor market that require employer-employee cooperation to be overcome for wage earners to be able to respond to tax changes.
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Dario Tortarolo, Guillermo Cruces and Victoria Castillo
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