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Is Commodity Taxation Unfair?

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Abstract

In a model where agents have unequal skills and heterogeneous preferences about consumption goods and leisure, this paper studies how to combine linear commodity taxes and non-linear income tax. It proposes a particular social welfare function on the basis of fairness principles. It then derives a simple criterion for evaluating the social welfare consequences of various tax schedules. Under the proposed approach, the optimal tax should have no commodity tax for some range of consumptions, and income redistribution would feature high subsidies to the working poor. It is also shown that, even when the income tax fails to be optimal, commodity taxes may not improve social welfare.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Institut d'economie publique (IDEP), Marseille, France in its series IDEP Working Papers with number 0502.

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Length: 30 pages
Date of creation: Jan 2005
Date of revision: Jan 2005
Handle: RePEc:iep:wpidep:0502

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Keywords: Optimal Tax; Income Tax; Commodity Tax; Social Choice; Fairness.;

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References

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  1. Marc Fleurbaey & Fran�Ois Maniquet, 2007. "Help the Low Skilled or Let the Hardworking Thrive? A Study of Fairness in Optimal Income Taxation," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 9(3), pages 467-500, 06.
  2. Guesnerie, Roger, 1977. "On the direction of tax reform," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 7(2), pages 179-202, April.
  3. Konishi, Hideo, 1995. "A Pareto-improving commodity tax reform under a smooth nonlinear income tax," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(3), pages 413-446, March.
  4. Yukihiro Nishimura, 2003. "Optimal commodity taxation for reduction of envy," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer, vol. 21(3), pages 501-527, December.
  5. Nishimura, Yukihiro, 2003. "Optimal non-linear income taxation for reduction of envy," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(2), pages 363-386, February.
  6. Cremer, Helmuth & Gahvari, Firouz, 1995. "Uncertainty and optimal taxation: In defense of commodity taxes," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(2), pages 291-310, February.
  7. Francois Maniquet & Yves Sprumont, 2002. "Welfare Egalitarianism in Non-Rival Environments," Economics Working Papers 0016, Institute for Advanced Study, School of Social Science.
  8. MANIQUET, François & SPRUMONT, Yves, 2002. "Fair Production and Allocation of an Excludable Nonrival Good," Cahiers de recherche 2002-04, Universite de Montreal, Departement de sciences economiques.
  9. Sören Blomquist & Vidar Christiansen, 2004. "Taxation and Heterogeneous Preferences," CESifo Working Paper Series 1244, CESifo Group Munich.
  10. Christiansen, Vidar, 1984. "Which commodity taxes should supplement the income tax?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 195-220, July.
  11. Armstrong, Mark, 1996. "Multiproduct Nonlinear Pricing," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 64(1), pages 51-75, January.
  12. Marc Fleurbaey, 2003. "Social Welfare, Priority to the Worst-Off And the Dimensions of Individual Well-Being," IDEP Working Papers 0312, Institut d'economie publique (IDEP), Marseille, France.
  13. Feldstein, Martin, 1976. "On the theory of tax reform," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(1-2), pages 77-104.
  14. Laroque, Guy R., 2005. "Indirect taxation is superfluous under separability and taste homogeneity: a simple proof," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 87(1), pages 141-144, April.
  15. Hatta, Tatsuo, 1977. "A Theory of Piecemeal Policy Recommendations," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 44(1), pages 1-21, February.
  16. Atkinson, A. B. & Stiglitz, J. E., 1976. "The design of tax structure: Direct versus indirect taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(1-2), pages 55-75.
  17. Robin Boadway & Maurice Marchand & Pierre Pestieau & María del Mar Racionero, 2002. "Optimal Redistribution with Heterogeneous Preferences for Leisure," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 4(4), pages 475-498, October.
  18. Samuelson, P. A., 1986. "Theory of optimal taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 137-143, July.
  19. Decoster, Andre & Schokkaert, Erik & Van Camp, Guy, 1997. "Is redistribution through indirect taxes equitable?," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 41(3-5), pages 599-608, April.
  20. Fleurbaey, Marc & Suzumura, Kotaro & Tadenuma, Koichi, 2005. "Arrovian aggregation in economic environments: how much should we know about indifference surfaces?," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 124(1), pages 22-44, September.
  21. Alkan, Ahmet & Demange, Gabrielle & Gale, David, 1991. "Fair Allocation of Indivisible Goods and Criteria of Justice," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 59(4), pages 1023-39, July.
  22. Cécile Boyer & Christian Gourieroux & Gaëlle Le Fol, 2001. "Ajustement des prix bid et ask en présence d'information privée," Working Papers 2001-25, Centre de Recherche en Economie et Statistique.
  23. FLEURBAEY, Marc & MANIQUET, François, . "Fair income tax," CORE Discussion Papers RP -1845, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  24. Mirrlees, James A, 1971. "An Exploration in the Theory of Optimum Income Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 38(114), pages 175-208, April.
  25. Cécile Boyer & Christian Gourieroux & Gaëlle Le Fol, 2001. "Ajustement des prix bid et ask en présence d'information privée," Working Papers 2001-25, Centre de Recherche en Economie et Statistique.
  26. Christiansen, Vidar, 1981. "Evaluation of Public Projects under Optimal Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 48(3), pages 447-57, July.
  27. M. Fleurbaey & F. Maniquet, 2008. "Fair social orderings," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 34(1), pages 25-45, January.
  28. Naito, Hisahiro, 1999. "Re-examination of uniform commodity taxes under a non-linear income tax system and its implication for production efficiency," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 71(2), pages 165-188, February.
  29. 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.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Juan D. Moreno-Ternero, 2010. "Voting over piece-wise linear tax methods," Working Papers 10.02, Universidad Pablo de Olavide, Department of Economics.
  2. Louis Kaplow, 2008. "Optimal Policy with Heterogeneous Preferences," NBER Working Papers 14170, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Valletta Giacomo, 2012. "Health, Fairness and Taxation," Research Memorandum 017, Maastricht University, Maastricht Research School of Economics of Technology and Organization (METEOR).
  4. Alan Krause, 2009. "A general equilibrium analysis of the Laffer argument," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer, vol. 33(4), pages 601-615, November.
  5. Alan Krause, 2007. "A Tax Reform Analysis of the Laffer Argument," Discussion Papers 07/10, Department of Economics, University of York.

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