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Indiana University's John Mikesell Receives "Best Paper" Award

July 28, 2014
Bloomington, Indiana --

A groundbreaking analysis of a touchy subject to many consumers, sales taxes, has earned an Indiana University professor a prestigious honor.

John MikesellChancellor’s Professor John Mikesell from the IU Bloomington School of Public and Environmental Affairs has received the 2014 “Best Conference Paper Award” from the Public Finance and Budgeting Section of the Western Social Science Association. Mikesell’s paper is titled “State Retail Sales Tax Productivity: Identifying Economic, Legal and Administrative Influences on C-efficiency Ratios across the American States.”

Sales taxes are collected by 45 states but there are significant differences between what is taxed by individual states, the amount of the tax and the level of enforcement. Some states but not others tax food, business purchases or car sales. The result can be large gap between what states could earn and what they actually collect.

Additionally, Mikesell found variations in how rigorously states attempted to collect the taxes: “The evidence is clear. A higher level of enforcement as defined in this analysis improves retail sales tax collection efficiency by around fifty percent when compared with a lower level of enforcement.”

To reach the conclusions, Mikesell pored over local, state and federal tax data and interviewed state tax officials. He used analytical methods and measures that other researchers have applied to investigations of national value added taxes but not to state sales taxes.

Mikesell will formally receive the “Best Paper Award” at an April, 2015 conference of the Western Social Science Association. The group previously awarded him 2nd place for a 2013 paper and 1st place for a 2011 paper.

To speak with Mikesell, contact Jim Hanchett at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, 812-856-5490 or