Using a microeconometric model of household labour supply to design opimal income taxes
AbstractThe purpose of this paper is to present an exercise where we identify optimal income tax rules according to various social welfare criteria, keeping fixed the total net tax revenue. Empirical applications of optimal taxation theory have typically adopted analytical expressions for the optimal taxes and then imputed numerical values to their parameters by using “calibration” procedures or previous econometric estimates. Besides the restrictiveness of the assumptions needed to obtain analytical solutions to the optimal taxation problem, a shortcoming of that procedure is the possible inconsistency between the theoretical assumptions and the assumptions implicit in the empirical evidence. In this paper we follow a different procedure, based on a computational approach to the optimal taxation problem. To this end, we estimate a microeconomic model with 78 parameters that capture heterogeneity in consumption-leisure preferences for singles and couples as well as in job opportunities across individuals based on detailed Norwegian household data for 1994. For any given tax rule, the estimated model can be used to simulate the labour supply choices made by single individuals and couples. Those choices are therefore generated by preferences and opportunities that vary across the decision units. We then identify optimal tax rules – within a class of 9-parameter piece-wise linear rules - by iteratively running the model until a given social welfare function attains its maximum under the constraint of keeping constant the total net tax revenue. The parameters to be determined are an exemption level, four marginal tax rates, three “kink points” and a lump sum transfer that can be positive (benefit) or negative (tax). We explore a variety of social welfare functions with differing degree of inequality aversion. All the social welfare functions imply monotonically increasing marginal tax rates. When compared with the current (1994) tax systems, the optimal rules imply a lower average tax rate. Moreover, all the optimal rules imply – with respect to the current rule – lower marginal rates on low and/or average income levels and higher marginal rates on relatively high income levels. These results are partially at odds with the tax reforms that took place in many countries during the last decades. While those reforms embodied the idea of lowering average tax rates, the way to implement it has typically consisted in reducing the top marginal rates. Our results instead suggest to lower average tax rates by reducing marginal rates on low and average income levels and increasing marginal rates on very high income levels.
Download InfoIf you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by University of Turin in its series Department of Economics and Statistics Cognetti de Martiis. Working Papers with number 201016.
Length: 46 pages
Date of creation: Oct 2010
Date of revision:
Other versions of this item:
- Rolf Aaberge & Ugo Colombino, 2013. "Using a Microeconometric Model of Household Labour Supply to Design Optimal Income Taxes," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 115(2), pages 449-475, 04.
- Rolf Aaberge & Ugo Colombino, 2010. "Using a Microeconometric Model of Household Labour Supply to Design Optimal Income Taxes," Carlo Alberto Notebooks 157, Collegio Carlo Alberto.
- H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation
- H31 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Household
- J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply
This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:
- NEP-ALL-2010-12-18 (All new papers)
- NEP-PBE-2010-12-18 (Public Economics)
- NEP-PUB-2010-12-18 (Public Finance)
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Colombino, Ugo & Locatelli, Marilena & Narazani, Edlira & O'Donoghue, Cathal & Shima, Isilda, 2008.
"Behavioural and welfare effects of basic income policies: a simulation for European countries,"
EUROMOD Working Papers
EM5/08, EUROMOD at the Institute for Social and Economic Research.
- Ugo Colombino & Marilena Locatelli & Edlira Narazani & Cathal O’Donoghue & Isilda Shima, 2008. "Behavioural and Welfare Effects of Basic Income Policies: A Simulation for European Countries," CHILD Working Papers wp03_08, CHILD - Centre for Household, Income, Labour and Demographic economics - ITALY.
- Dolls, Mathias & Peichl, Andreas & Zimmermann, Klaus F., 2011. "Eine Herausforderung für die G20: Global vereinbarte Schuldenbremsen und transnationale fiskalpolitische Aufsichtsgremien," IZA Standpunkte 45, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Piero Cavaleri) or (Marina Grazioli).
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.