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The efficiency and welfare effects of tax reform: are fewer tax brackets better than more?

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  • David Altig
  • Charles T. Carlstrom

Abstract

Using the well-known dynamic fiscal policy framework pioneered by Auerbach and Kotlikoff, we examine the efficiency and welfare implications of shifting from a linear marginal tax rate structure to a discrete rate structure characterized by two regions of flat tax rates of 15 and 28 percent. For a wide range of parameter values, we find that there is no sequence of lump-sum transfers that the (model) government can feasibly implement to make the shift from the linear to the discrete structure Pareto-improving. We conclude that the worldwide trend toward replacing rate structures having many small steps between tax rates with structures characterized by just a few large jumps is not easily accounted for by efficiency arguments. In the process of our analysis, we introduce a simple algorithm for solving dynamic fiscal policy models that include "kinks" in individual budget surfaces due to discrete tax codes. In addition to providing a relatively straightforward way of extending Auerbach-Kotlikoff-type models to this class of problems, our approach has the side benefit of facilitating the interpretation of our results.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland in its series Working Paper with number 9212.

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Date of creation: 1992
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedcwp:9212

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Keywords: Taxation;

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References

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  1. Paul Beaudry & Eric van Wincoop, 1992. "Alternative specifications for consumption and the estimation of the intertemporal elasticity of substitution," Discussion Paper / Institute for Empirical Macroeconomics 69, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  2. Martin S. Eichenbaum & Lars Peter Hansen, 1991. "Estimating Models with Intertemporal Substitution Using Aggregate Time Series Data," NBER Working Papers 2181, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Hansen, Lars Peter & Singleton, Kenneth J, 1982. "Generalized Instrumental Variables Estimation of Nonlinear Rational Expectations Models," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(5), pages 1269-86, September.
  4. Joel Slemrod, 1991. "Optimal Taxation and Optimal Tax Systems," NBER Working Papers 3038, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Alan J. Auerbach & Laurence J. Kotlikoff & Jonathan Skinner, 1983. "The Efficiency Gains from Dynamic Tax Reform," NBER Working Papers 0819, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. MaCurdy, Thomas E, 1981. "An Empirical Model of Labor Supply in a Life-Cycle Setting," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(6), pages 1059-85, December.
  7. Killingsworth, Mark R. & Heckman, James J., 1987. "Female labor supply: A survey," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & R. Layard (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 2, pages 103-204 Elsevier.
  8. Rogerson, Richard & Rupert, Peter, 1991. "New estimates of intertemporal substitution : The effect of corner solutions for year-round workers," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 255-269, April.
  9. Kydland, Finn E & Prescott, Edward C, 1982. "Time to Build and Aggregate Fluctuations," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(6), pages 1345-70, November.
  10. Pencavel, John, 1987. "Labor supply of men: A survey," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & R. Layard (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 1, pages 3-102 Elsevier.
  11. Benveniste, L M & Scheinkman, J A, 1979. "On the Differentiability of the Value Function in Dynamic Models of Economics," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(3), pages 727-32, May.
  12. King, Robert G & Plosser, Charles I & Rebelo, Sergio T, 2002. "Production, Growth and Business Cycles: Technical Appendix," Computational Economics, Society for Computational Economics, vol. 20(1-2), pages 87-116, October.
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Cited by:
  1. Arindam Das-Gupta & Ira Gang, 2000. "Decomposing Revenue Effects of Tax Evasion and Tax Structure Changes," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer, vol. 7(2), pages 177-194, March.

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