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Procrastination in the Field: Evidence from Tax Filing

Martinez, Seung-Keun; Meier, Stephan; Sprenger, Charles


Stephan Meier

Charles Sprenger


Understanding the structure of time preferences allows for accurate predictions of the effects of changing intertemporal incentives. Behavioral models of present bias are used to rationalize field data seemingly at odds with exponential discounting, leveraging additional degrees of freedom to improve in-sample fit. Largely lacking to date are the critical out-of-sample tests necessary to ensure predictive accuracy. This paper contrasts exponential discounting with present-biased procrastination for around 22,000 tax filers, advancing the literature in this domain by providing novel out-of-sample tests for both theories. Present bias provides qualitatively better in-sample fit, matching substantial increases in filing probability as the tax deadline approaches. Present bias also has improved out-of-sample predictive power for responsiveness to the 2008 Stimulus Act, and experimental data demonstrate a link between present bias and filing times. Without present bias, predicted responses to changed incentives are inaccurate, demonstrating its necessity in research and policy applications.


Martinez, S., Meier, S., & Sprenger, C. (2022). Procrastination in the Field: Evidence from Tax Filing. Journal of the European Economic Association,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 23, 2022
Online Publication Date Dec 10, 2022
Publication Date Dec 10, 2022
Deposit Date Feb 1, 2023
Publicly Available Date Dec 11, 2023
Journal Journal of the European Economic Association
Print ISSN 1542-4766
Electronic ISSN 1542-4774
Publisher Oxford University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Keywords General Economics, Econometrics and Finance
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced version of an article accepted for publication in Journal of European Economic Association following peer review. The version of record Seung-Keun Martinez, Stephan Meier, Charles Sprenger, Procrastination in the Field: Evidence from Tax Filing, Journal of the European Economic Association, 2022;, jvac067 is available online at:


This file is under embargo until Dec 11, 2023 due to copyright restrictions.

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