Are consumption taxes really disliked more than equivalent costs? Inconclusive results in the USA and no effect in the UK

Jerome Olsen*, Christoph Kogler, Mark Brandt, Linda Deszö, Erich Kirchler

*Corresponding author for this work

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In two experiments on hypothetical purchase decisions, Sussman and Olivola (2011) found that US citizens prefer avoiding tax-related costs over avoiding tax-unrelated monetary costs of the same size. The original Experiment 1 and 2 tests of this Tax Aversion indicated that people are willing to wait longer to receive a discount when it refers to taxes (e.g., “axe-the-tax discount”) than when it is just a regular discount (e.g., “customer rewards”). We conducted high-powered close replications of both original studies, Experiment 1 (N = 590) and Experiment 2 (N = 650), which reveal either no effect (Experiment 1: r = 0.02, 95% CI [−0.06, 0.10]) or a small effect (Experimental 2: r = 0.09, 95% CI [0.01, 0.16]) in the USA. We also replicated both experimental procedures in the UK to test whether the effect generalized to a value added tax system. Neither Experiment 1 (N = 595; r = 0.01, 95% CI [−0.07, 0.09]) nor Experiment 2 (N = 673; r = 0.03, 95% CI [−0.04, 0.11]) revealed an effect in the UK. Tax Aversion in hypothetical consumption decisions seems to be a smaller phenomenon than originally proposed and does not generalize to a value added tax system.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102145
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Economic Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 2019



  • Financial choice
  • Replication
  • Sales tax
  • Tax aversion
  • Tax behavior
  • VAT

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