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The elasticity of taxable income and income-shifting between tax bases: what is “real” and what is not?

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  • Jarkko Harju

    ()
    (Government Institute for Economic Research, Finland)

  • Tuomas Matikka

    ()
    (Government Institute for Economic Research, Finland)

Abstract

Previous literature shows that income taxation especially affects the behaviour of business owners and entrepreneurs. However, it is still unclear how much of the response is due to changes in effort and other real economic activity, and how much is due to tax avoidance and tax evasion. This is important because the nature of the response largely affects the welfare implications and policy recommendations. In this paper we distinguish between real responses and tax-motivated income- shifting between tax bases using the widely-applied elasticity of taxable income (ETI) framework. We use extensive register-based panel data on both the owner and firm-level, which enable us to carefully distinguish between real effects and income-shifting among the owners of privately held corporations in Finland. Our results show that income-shifting accounts for over two thirds of the overall ETI. As the shifted income is also taxed, this significantly decreases the marginal excess burden of income taxation compared to the standard model in which the overall ETI defines the welfare loss. However, in addition to income-shifting effects, we find that dividend taxation significantly affects the real behaviour of the owners.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Oxford University Centre for Business Taxation in its series Working Papers with number 1313.

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Date of creation: 2013
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Handle: RePEc:btx:wpaper:1313

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Keywords: Personal income taxation; Elasticity of taxable income; Business owners; Tax avoidance;

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References

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  1. Blomquist, Sören & Selin, Håkan, 2008. "Hourly Wage Rate and Taxable Labor Income Responsiveness to Changes in Marginal Tax Rates," Working Paper Series, Center for Fiscal Studies 2009:1, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.
  2. Emmanuel Saez & Joel B. Slemrod & Seth H. Giertz, 2009. "The Elasticity of Taxable Income with Respect to Marginal Tax Rates: A Critical Review," NBER Working Papers 15012, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Chetty, Nadarajan, 2009. "Is the Taxable Income Elasticity Sufficient to Calculate Deadweight Loss? The Implications of Evasion and Avoidance," Scholarly Articles 9748527, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  4. Jon Gruber & Emmanuel Saez, 2000. "The Elasticity of Taxable Income: Evidence and Implications," NBER Working Papers 7512, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Daniel le Maire & Bertel Schjerningo, 2012. "Tax Bunching, Income Shifting and Self-employment," EPRU Working Paper Series 2012-04, Economic Policy Research Unit (EPRU), University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
  6. Seppo Kari & Hanna Karikallio & Jukka Pirttilä, 2008. "Anticipating Tax Changes: Evidence from the Finnish Corporate Income Tax Reform of 2005," Discussion Papers 447, Government Institute for Economic Research Finland (VATT).
  7. Spencer Bastani & Håkan Selin, 2012. "Bunching and Non-Bunching at Kink Points of the Swedish Tax Schedule," CESifo Working Paper Series 3865, CESifo Group Munich.
  8. Emmanuel Saez, 2004. "Reported Incomes and Marginal Tax Rates, 1960-2000: Evidence and Policy Implications," NBER Working Papers 10273, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Emmanuel Saez, 1999. "Do Taxpayers Bunch at Kink Points?," NBER Working Papers 7366, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Raj Chetty, 2009. "Bounds on Elasticities with Optimization Frictions: A Synthesis of Micro and Macro Evidence on Labor Supply," NBER Working Papers 15616, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Jarkko Harju & Tuomas Kosonen, 2012. "The Impact of Tax Incentives on the Economic Activity of Entrepreneurs," Working Papers 1220, Oxford University Centre for Business Taxation.
  12. Jukka Pirttilä & Håkan Selin, 2011. "Income Shifting within a Dual Income Tax System: Evidence from the Finnish Tax Reform of 1993," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 113(1), pages 120-144, 03.
  13. Austan Goolsbee, 1997. "What Happens When You Tax the Rich? Evidence from Executive Compensation," NBER Working Papers 6333, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Jarkko Harju & Tuomas Matikka, 2013. "Entrepreneurs and income-shifting: Empirical evidence from a Finnish tax reform," Working Papers 43, Government Institute for Economic Research Finland (VATT).
  15. Martin Feldstein, 1999. "Tax Avoidance And The Deadweight Loss Of The Income Tax," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 81(4), pages 674-680, November.
  16. Michael Devereux & Li Liu & Simon Loretz, 2012. "The Elasticity of Corporate Taxable Income: New Evidence from UK Tax Records," Working Papers 1223, Oxford University Centre for Business Taxation.
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Cited by:
  1. Tuomas Matikka, 2014. "Taxable Income Elasticity and the Anatomy of Behavioral Response: Evidence from Finland," Working Papers 55, Government Institute for Economic Research Finland (VATT).

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