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Consumption smoothing and the measured regressivity of consumption taxes

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  • Kartik B. Athreya
  • Devin Reilly

Abstract

In this article, we address two questions. First, how will a move to pure consumption taxation matter for aggregate outcomes? Second, how regressive are consumption taxes? We find as follows. First, a move to a consumption tax will increase savings taken into retirement but will not alter either labor supply or consumption variability substantially. Second, we show that regressivity is a measure that is quantitatively sensitive to the frequency of income being used. In particular, we show that when measures of tax incidence are based on annual income, successful consumption smoothing leads to the appearance of high regressivity. Our preferred measure, which is based on lifetime earnings, shows that consumption taxes are proportional taxes.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond in its journal Economic Quarterly.

Volume (Year): (2009)
Issue (Month): Win ()
Pages: 75-100

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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedreq:y:2009:i:win:p:75-100:n:v.95no.1

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Keywords: Taxation ; Consumption (Economics);

References

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  1. Richard Blundell & Luigi Pistaferri & Ian Preston, 2008. "Consumption Inequality and Partial Insurance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(5), pages 1887-1921, December.
  2. Kartik B. Athreya & Andrea L. Waddle, 2007. "Implications of some alternatives to capital income taxation," Economic Quarterly, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, issue Win, pages 31-55.
  3. Fatih Guvenen, 2007. "Learning Your Earning: Are Labor Income Shocks Really Very Persistent?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(3), pages 687-712, June.
  4. Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas & Jonathan A. Parker, 2002. "Consumption Over the Life Cycle," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(1), pages 47-89, January.
  5. Storesletten, Kjetil & Telmer, Chris & Yaron, Amir, 2002. "Consumption and Risk Sharing Over the Life Cycle," Seminar Papers 702, Stockholm University, Institute for International Economic Studies.
  6. Andrew Atkeson & V.V. Chari & Patrick J. Kehoe, 1999. "Taxing capital income: a bad idea," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Sum, pages 3-17.
  7. Suits, Daniel B, 1977. "Measurement of Tax Progressivity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(4), pages 747-52, September.
  8. Fuster, Luisa & Imrohoroglu, Ayse & Imrohoroglu, Selahattin, 2008. "Altruism, incomplete markets, and tax reform," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(1), pages 65-90, January.
  9. Josep Pijoan-Mas, 2003. "Precautionary Savings Or Working Longer Hours?," Working Papers wp2003_0311, CEMFI.
  10. Attanasio, Orazio P, et al, 1999. "Humps and Bumps in Lifetime Consumption," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 17(1), pages 22-35, January.
  11. Huggett, Mark, 1996. "Wealth distribution in life-cycle economies," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 38(3), pages 469-494, December.
  12. Fullerton, Don & Rogers, Diane Lim, 1991. "Lifetime Versus Annual Perspectives on Tax Incidence," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 44(3), pages 277-87, September.
  13. Santiago Budria Rodriguez & Javier Diaz-Gimenez & Vincenzo Quadrini & Jose-Victor Rior-Rull, 2002. "Updated facts on the U.S. distributions of earnings, income, and wealth," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Sum, pages 2-35.
  14. Shinichi Nishiyama & Kent Smetters, 2005. "Consumption Taxes and Economic Efficiency with Idiosyncratic Wage Shocks," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(5), pages 1088-1115, October.
  15. Tauchen, George, 1986. "Finite state markov-chain approximations to univariate and vector autoregressions," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 20(2), pages 177-181.
  16. Athreya, Kartik B., 2008. "Default, insurance, and debt over the life-cycle," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(4), pages 752-774, May.
  17. Andres Erosa & Martin Gervais, 2001. "Optimal taxation in infinitely-lived agent and overlapping generations models : a review," Economic Quarterly, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, issue Spr, pages 23-44.
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Cited by:
  1. Artheya, Kartik & Reilly, Devin & Simpson, Nicole B., 2014. "Single Mothers and the Earned Income Tax Credit: Insurance Without Disincentives?," Working Paper 14-11, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.

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