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The Equity Implications of Fiscal Consolidation

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  • Łukasz Rawdanowicz
  • Eckhard Wurzel
  • Ane Kathrine Christensen
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    Abstract

    In several OECD countries, ongoing fiscal consolidation might have a negative impact on the static income distribution. However, this conclusion should be treated only as an approximate first step in the analysis. A full assessment of distributional effects of consolidation packages would need to consider dynamic measures, such as life-time income distribution and the equality of opportunity, along with behavioural responses and interactions with other policies. In any case, there is scope to balance current consolidation efforts in favour of more equity with only limited adverse impact on potential growth. In particular, relatively little weight has been given to reducing tax expenditures and raising taxes on immovable property. A number of consolidation instruments are consistent with equity goals while doing little or no harm to potential growth: increases in the effective retirement age, raising efficiency in the education and health care systems, cutting certain tax expenditures, hiking taxes on immovable property and broadly-based consumption taxes. Increases in capital income taxes would also be equitable but need to be well designed to avoid being distortive. Calculations based on simplifying assumptions indicate that increasing household direct taxes would reduce income inequality, while cutting transfers by the same amount would have a larger and opposite effect on inequality. However, raising progressive labour income taxes could have adverse effects on long-run growth. Cuts in government wages and employment can yield fast consolidation gains but need to be accompanied by increases in efficiency of service delivery to avoid that reductions in public services mainly hit the poor. Cuts in unemployment-related and disability benefits will likely hit poorer people in the first place but may have less adverse effects on inequality in the long run once employment increases in response to a better incentive structure. Assainissement budgétaire et l'équité Dans plusieurs pays de l’OCDE, l’assainissement actuel des finances publiques aurait un impact negatif sur la distribution statique des revenus. Cette conclusion doite être pourtant considérée uniquement comme une première étape approximative de l'analyse. Une évaluation complète des effets de distribution de consolidation fiscale nécessiterait de prendre en compte des mesures dynamiques, comme la distribution du revenu tout au long de la vie et l'égalité des chances ainsi que les réactions comportementales et les interactions avec d'autres politiques. En tout cas, il existe une marge pour équilibrer les efforts d'assainissement dans le sens d'une plus grande équité avec une incidence négative limitée sur la croissance potentielle. En particulier, les plans actuels font une place relativement peu importante à la réduction des dépenses fiscales et à l’alourdissement de la fiscalité sur la propriété immobilière. Un certain nombre d'instruments de redressement sont conformes aux objectifs d'équité, tout en étant peu ou pas du tout préjudiciables à la croissance potentielle: relèvement de l'âge effectif de la retraite, amélioration de l'efficience des systèmes d'éducation et de santé, baisse de certaines dépenses fiscales, alourdissement de la fiscalité sur le patrimoine immobilier et impôts à large assise sur la consommation. L'augmentation des impôts sur les revenus du capital serait également équitable, mais elle doit être bien conçue pour ne pas entraîner de distorsions. Les calculs, basés sur des suppositions simplifiées, montrent qu'un relèvement des impôts directs sur les ménages atténuerait les inégalités de revenus alors qu'une réduction des transferts de même montant aurait un effet plus important et de sens opposé sur les inégalités. Toutefois, une hausse des impôts progressifs sur les revenus du travail pourrait nuire à la croissance à long terme.Des coupes dans les rémunérations des fonctionnaires et dans leurs effectifs peuvent entraîner rapidement des gains budgétaires, mais elles doivent être accompagnées de gains d’efficience dans la prestation de services afin éviter qu'une contraction des services publics ne pénalise surtout les pauvres. Une baisse des allocations de chômage et d'invalidité touchera probablement en premier lieu les personnes les plus défavorisées mais elle pourrait avoir moins d’effets défavorables en termes d’inégalité sur le long terme, une fois que l’emploi augmentera du fait de l’amélioration de la structure incitative.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by OECD Publishing in its series OECD Economics Department Working Papers with number 1013.

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    Date of creation: 14 Jan 2013
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    Handle: RePEc:oec:ecoaaa:1013-en

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    Keywords: taxes; transfers; redistribution; income inequality; welfare system; fiscal consolidation; Assainissement des finances publiques; redistribution; transferts; inégalité des revenus; impôt; système de protection sociale;

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    References

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    1. Wu, Ximing & Perloff, Jeffrey M. & Golan, Amos, 2002. "Effects of Government Policies on Income Distribution and Welfare," Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics, UC Berkeley, Working Paper Series qt74r4h1fc, Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics, UC Berkeley.
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    Cited by:
    1. Manos Matsaganis & Chrysa Leventi, 2014. "Distributive Effects of the Crisis and Austerity in Seven EU Countries," ImPRovE Working Papers 14/04, Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy, University of Antwerp.
    2. Vassiliki Koutsogeorgopoulou & Manos Matsaganis & Chrysa Leventi & Jan-David Schneider, 2014. "Fairly Sharing the Social Impact of the Crisis in Greece," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 1106, OECD Publishing.

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