Why Don't Taxpayers Maximize their Tax-Based Student Aid? Salience and Inertia in Program Selection
The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy (2012)
  • Nicholas Turner
Article
Abstract
Tax-based federal student aid is designed to increase postsecondary attendance and ease the financial burden of higher education enrollment by offering students and their families a menu of tax incentives. However, many taxpayers who are eligible for more than one tax-based aid program, and who are limited to one program per student each year, fail to select the single program that offers the largest reduction in taxes. Analyzing a panel dataset of individual income tax returns, I find that in roughly one out of four returns taxpayers and paid preparers fail to select the tax-minimizing tax-based aid program. I find evidence that greater salience of federal tax effects, and inertia in program selection, leads some taxpayers and paid preparers to make non-tax-minimizing selections. Streamlining the set of tax-based aid programs into a single tax incentive is likely to be a more effective way of lowering the costs of postsecondary attendance for students and their families.
Keywords
  • salience,
  • inertia,
  • default behavior,
  • tax-based student aid
Publication Date
January 9, 2012
Citation Information
Nicholas Turner. "Why Don't Taxpayers Maximize their Tax-Based Student Aid? Salience and Inertia in Program Selection" The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy Vol. 11 Iss. 1 (2012)
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/nicholas_turner/1/