Robbing Peter to Pay Paul: Understanding How State Tax Credits Impact Charitable Giving

78 Pages Posted: 18 May 2020 Last revised: 21 Mar 2022

See all articles by Chandrayee Chatterjee

Chandrayee Chatterjee

Georgia State University

James C. Cox

Georgia State University

Michael K. Price

University of Alabama - Department of Economics, Finance and Legal Studies

Florian Rundhammer

Georgia State University - Department of Economics

Date Written: May 2020

Abstract

Donations to charity are widely encouraged by policymakers through targeted tax incentives such as tax credits for contributions only to qualifying causes. We use a framed field experiment to test how the largest such program, Arizona’s state income tax credit for donations to qualifying charities, affects donation decisions in a modified dictator game. In the experiment, we randomize whether subjects receive detailed information about the tax credit program prior to selecting potential recipients and completing the allocation task. We also vary the number of charities that subjects can select as recipients along with the (tax-credit) qualifying vs. non-qualifying composition of the choice set. We find that average giving is unaffected by the information provision and composition of the choice set. However, subjects direct significantly more funds towards qualifying charities when provided information about the tax program; an effect that is enhanced when subjects select multiple recipients from lists that contain a mixture of qualifying and non-qualifying organizations. Our results underline the importance of including a portfolio of choices when studying the impact of targeted incentives because this makes it possible to identify a central feature of our data: participants “rob Peter” (non-qualifying charities) “to pay Paul” (qualifying charities).

Suggested Citation

Chatterjee, Chandrayee and Cox, James C. and Price, Michael K. and Rundhammer, Florian, Robbing Peter to Pay Paul: Understanding How State Tax Credits Impact Charitable Giving (May 2020). NBER Working Paper No. w27163, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3603793

Chandrayee Chatterjee (Contact Author)

Georgia State University

35 Broad Street
Atlanta, GA 30303-3083
United States

James C. Cox

Georgia State University

Michael K. Price

University of Alabama - Department of Economics, Finance and Legal Studies ( email )

P.O. Box 870244
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487
United States

Florian Rundhammer

Georgia State University - Department of Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 3992
Atlanta, GA 30302-3992
United States

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