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How Should Commodities Be Taxed? A Counterargument to the Recommendation in the Mirrlees Review

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  • Bastani, Spencer

    ()
    (Uppsala Center for Fiscal Studies)

  • Blomquist, Sören

    ()
    (Uppsala Center for Fiscal Studies)

  • Pirttilä, Jukka

    ()
    (University of Tampere)

Abstract

The Mirrlees Review recommends that commodity taxation should in general be uniform, but with some goods consumed in conjunction with labour supply (such as child care) left untaxed. This paper examines the validity of this claim in an optimal income tax framework. Contrary to the recommendation of the Review, our theoretical results imply that even if all goods other than the good needed for working are separable from leisure, the optimal tax on these goods should not be uniform. Instead, goods with larger expenditure elasticities should be discouraged relatively more by the tax system. If the government fully subsidises the cost of the good needed for working, then commodity taxation is uniform under the standard separability assumption. Our results imply that the optimal commodity tax system is dependent on the expenditure side of the government. A calibration exercise presented in the paper suggests that these results can be quantitatively important.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Uppsala University, Department of Economics in its series Working Paper Series, Center for Fiscal Studies with number 2013:5.

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Length: 26 pages
Date of creation: 03 May 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:hhs:uufswp:2013_005

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Postal: Department of Economics, Uppsala University, P. O. Box 513, SE-751 20 Uppsala, Sweden
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Keywords: income taxation; commodity taxation; public provision; separability;

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  1. Browning, Martin & Meghir, Costas, 1991. "The Effects of Male and Female Labor Supply on Commodity Demands," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 59(4), pages 925-51, July.
  2. Blundell, Richard & Shephard, Andrew, 2011. "Employment, Hours of Work and the Optimal Taxation of Low Income Families," IZA Discussion Papers 5745, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Mirrlees, J. A., 1976. "Optimal tax theory : A synthesis," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(4), pages 327-358, November.
  4. Sören Blomquist & Vidar Christiansen & Luca Micheletto, 2008. "Public Provision of Private Goods and Nondistortionary Marginal Tax Rates," CESifo Working Paper Series 2303, CESifo Group Munich.
  5. Emmanuel Saez, 2000. "The Desirability of Commodity Taxation under Non-Linear Income Taxation and Heterogeneous Tastes," NBER Working Papers 8029, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Bastani, Spencer & Blomquist, Sören & Micheletto, Luca, 2010. "Public Provision of Private Goods, Tagging and Optimal Income Taxation with Heterogeneity in Needs," Working Paper Series, Center for Fiscal Studies 2010:14, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.
  7. Eric Bonsang, 2006. "How do middle-aged children allocate time and money transfers to their older parents in Europe?," CREPP Working Papers 0602, Centre de Recherche en Economie Publique et de la Population (CREPP) (Research Center on Public and Population Economics) HEC-Management School, University of Liège.
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Cited by:
  1. John T. Revesz, 2014. "A computational model of optimal commodity taxation," Public Finance Research Papers 4, Istituto di Economia e Finanza, DIGEF, Sapienza University of Rome.

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