In-Kind Taxes, Behavior, and Comparative Advantage

40 Pages Posted: 28 Sep 2015

See all articles by Casey B. Mulligan

Casey B. Mulligan

University of Chicago; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: September 2015


This paper treats taxation in kind (IKT) as an example of price regulation, emphasizing IKT-avoidance behavior, and its interactions with the other costs of price controls. This emphasis fundamentally changes efficiency conclusions, and adds new ones. IKTs do not in fact randomly sample suppliers. Large-scale IKTs, and not small-scale ones, may have especially large average efficiency costs. Ransoms or “commutation fees” are an IKT policy option, but are only efficiency enhancing in specific situations: more heterogeneity among suppliers, and avoidance technologies that result in avoidance behaviors that are poor signals of a supplier’s opportunity cost. Avoidance behaviors are one reason why the social costs of wars and other public projects involving IKTs may have been underestimated.

Suggested Citation

Mulligan, Casey B., In-Kind Taxes, Behavior, and Comparative Advantage (September 2015). NBER Working Paper No. w21586, Available at SSRN:

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