Is Sales Tax Included in the Price? Consumer Inattention and Price Competition

25 Pages Posted: 16 Apr 2024 Last revised: 31 May 2024

See all articles by Oz Shy

Oz Shy

Federal Reserve Banks - Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta

Date Written: May 31, 2024

Abstract

Sales tax is generally not included in the advertised price quoted to consumers in the United States. In contrast, value added taxes (VAT) are embedded into the price in most other countries. This article investigates how the two different pricing structures and consumers' decision-making process affect the intensity of price competition. The two pricing structures yield identical market outcomes with fast-computing consumers who are willing and able to recompute the exact sales tax each time there is a price change. With slow-computing consumers, prices and profits are higher when sellers quote and compete in prices without sales tax. In this case, a model extension with two-stage decision-making shows that the entire tax burden is shifted to the consumers when they completely ignore sales tax during their initial search.

Keywords: Price competition, price comparisons, sales tax, value added tax, fastand slow-computing consumers, mental accounting, inattention, consumer decisionmaking JEL Classification Numbers: D43, H29, L13, M3

JEL Classification: D43, H29, L13, M3.

Suggested Citation

Shy, Oz, Is Sales Tax Included in the Price? Consumer Inattention and Price Competition (May 31, 2024). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4794108 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4794108

Oz Shy (Contact Author)

Federal Reserve Banks - Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta ( email )

1000 Peachtree Street N.E.
Atlanta, GA 30309-4470
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.frbatlanta.org/research/economists/shy-oz.aspx?panel=1

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