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Tax bases, tax rates and the elasticity of reported income

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  • Wojciech Kopczuk

    ()
    (Columbia University - Department of Economics)

Abstract

Tax reforms usually change both tax rates and tax bases. Using a panel of income tax returns spanning the two major U.S. tax reforms of the 1980s and a number of smaller tax law changes, I find that the elasticity of income reported on personal income tax returns depends on the available deductions. This highlights that this key behavioral elasticity is not an immutable parameter but rather that it can be to some extent controlled by policy makers. One implication is that base broadening reduces the marginal efficiency cost of taxation. The results are very similar for all income categories indicating that the rich are more responsive to tax rates because tax rules that apply to them are different (their tax base is narrower). The point estimates indicate that the Tax Reform Act of 1986 reduced the marginal cost of collecting a dollar of tax revenue by 2 cents, with roughly half of this reduction due to the base broadening and the other half due to the tax rate reduction. As a by-product, the analysis in this paper offers a reconciliation of disparate estimates obtained by previous studies of the tax responsiveness of income.

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Paper provided by Columbia University, Department of Economics in its series Discussion Papers with number 0304-15.

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Length: 45 pages
Date of creation: 2004
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Handle: RePEc:clu:wpaper:0304-15

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  1. Joel Slemrod, 2001. "A General Model of the Behavioral Response to Taxation," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer, vol. 8(2), pages 119-128, March.
  2. Feldstein, Martin, 1995. "The Effect of Marginal Tax Rates on Taxable Income: A Panel Study of the 1986 Tax Reform Act," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(3), pages 551-72, June.
  3. Yitzhaki, Shlomo, 1979. "A Note on Optimal Taxation and Administrative Costs," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 69(3), pages 475-80, June.
  4. Slemrod, Joel, 1998. "Methodological Issues in Measuring and Interpreting Taxable Income Elasticities," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 51(n. 4), pages 773-88, December.
  5. 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.
  6. Wilson, John Douglas, 1989. "On the Optimal Tax Base for Commodity Taxation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(5), pages 1196-1206, December.
  7. Austan Goolsbee, 1999. "Evidence on the High-Income Laffer Curve from Six Decades of Tax Reform," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 30(2), pages 1-64.
  8. Mayshar, Joram, 1991. " Taxation with Costly Administration," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 93(1), pages 75-88.
  9. Joel Slemrod & Wojciech Kopczuk, 2000. "The Optimal Elasticity of Taxable Income," NBER Working Papers 7922, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Slemrod, Joel, 1994. "Fixing the leak in Okun's bucket optimal tax progressivity when avoidance can be controlled," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(1), pages 41-51, September.
  11. Jon Gruber & Emmanuel Saez, 2000. "The Elasticity of Taxable Income: Evidence and Implications," NBER Working Papers 7512, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Kopczuk, Wojciech, 2001. "Redistribution when avoidance behavior is heterogeneous," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 81(1), pages 51-71, July.
  13. Gerald E. Auten & Holger Sieg & Charles T. Clotfelter, 2002. "Charitable Giving, Income, and Taxes: An Analysis of Panel Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(1), pages 371-382, March.
  14. Wojciech Kopczuk, 2003. "Tax Bases, Tax Rates and the Elasticity of Reported Income," NBER Working Papers 10044, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Mary-Anne Sillamaa & Michael R. Veall, 2000. "The Effect of Marginal Tax Rates on Taxable Income: A Panel Study of the 1988 Tax Flattening in Canada," Quantitative Studies in Economics and Population Research Reports 354, McMaster University.
  16. Daniel Feenberg & Elisabeth Coutts, 1993. "An introduction to the TAXSIM model," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 12(1), pages 189-194.
  17. Feldstein, Martin, 1995. "Effect of Marginal Tax Rates on Taxable Income: A Panel Study of the 1986 Tax Reform Act," Scholarly Articles 2766676, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  18. Robert A Moffitt & Mark Wilhelm, 2000. "Taxation and the Labor Supply - Decisions of the Affluent," Economics Working Paper Archive 414, The Johns Hopkins University,Department of Economics.
  19. Aarbu, Karl O. & Thoresen, Thor O., 2001. "Income Responses to Tax Changes--Evidence from the Norwegian Tax Reform," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 54(n. 2), pages 319-38, June.
  20. James E. Long, 1999. "The Impact of Marginal Tax Rates on Taxable Income: Evidence from State Income Tax Differentials," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 65(4), pages 855-869, April.
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