Optimal non-linear income taxation for the alleviation of income poverty
AbstractThere has been much discussion recently of structuring tax and transfer programs to ensure that resources go to the poor, with minimal leaks to the nonpoor. The poor have no incentive to earn income with 100 percent marginal tax rates, but how high or low the marginal rate of taxation should be, and how they should vary with income, is a complex issue - and opinions vary. Social security schemes that withdraw benefits represent an extremely high effective marginal tax rate; other schemes call for relatively low marginal tax rates at the bottom of the income distribution. Which tax-transfer schedule does most to reduce poverty? The issue is one of optimal nonlinear income taxation. The authors show that one of the key theoretical results of the welfarist literature is overturned: if it is desirable for everybody to work, the optimal marginal tax rate on the very poorest individuals is strictly negative. They argue that the nonwelfarist perspective points toward lower marginal tax rates in the lower part of the income distribution than does the welfarist perspective. But numerical simulations suggest that the effect is of limited quantitative significance. Using conventional functional forms and parameter values, optimal marginal tax rates on the poor are in the 60-70 percent range.
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Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 616.
Date of creation: 31 Mar 1991
Date of revision:
Services&Transfers to Poor; Achieving Shared Growth; Rural Poverty Reduction; Environmental Economics&Policies; Safety Nets and Transfers;
Other versions of this item:
- Kanbur, Ravi & Keen, Michael & Tuomala, Matti, 1994. "Optimal non-linear income taxation for the alleviation of income-poverty," European Economic Review, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 38(8), pages 1613-1632, October.
- Ravi Kanbur & Michael Keen & Matti Tuomala, 1990. "Optimal Non-Linear Income Taxation for the Alleviation of Income Poverty," Working Papers, Queen's University, Department of Economics 799, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
- Kanbur, R. & Keen, M. & Tuomala, M., 1990. "Optimal Non-Linear Income Taxation for the Alleviation of Income Poverty," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 368, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
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- Foster, James & Greer, Joel & Thorbecke, Erik, 1984. "A Class of Decomposable Poverty Measures," Econometrica, Econometric Society, Econometric Society, vol. 52(3), pages 761-66, May.
- Atkinson, A B, 1987. "On the Measurement of Poverty," Econometrica, Econometric Society, Econometric Society, vol. 55(4), pages 749-64, July.
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- Mirrlees, James A, 1971. "An Exploration in the Theory of Optimum Income Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 38(114), pages 175-208, April.
- King, Mervyn A., 1983. "Welfare analysis of tax reforms using household data," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 21(2), pages 183-214, July.
- Besley, Timothy, 1990. "Means Testing versus Universal Provision in Poverty Alleviation Programmes," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 57(225), pages 119-29, February.
- Kanbur, R. & Keen, M., 1988. "Poverty, Incentives And Linear Income Taxation," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 298, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
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