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Nonlinear Pricing, Redistribution, and Optimal Tax Policy

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  • Cremer, Helmuth
  • Gahvari, Firouz

Abstract

This paper examines the role of nonlinear pricing by public (or regulated) utilities as a redistributive mechanism in presence of an optimal nonlinear income tax. It models an economy with many types of persons who differ in two unobservable characteristics (earning abilities and tastes). We show that nonlinear pricing does have a redistributive role; it is not a substitute for an ill-designed tax policy. We prove, assuming separable preferences, that a person whose valuation of the public sector output is smaller than the average valuation of the population (all measured at the same consumption bundle) must face a marginal price for the good above its marginal cost. Further assuming that tastes and earning abilities are perfectly correlated, we prove that everyone must face a marginal price for the public sector's output which strictly exceeds its marginal cost if correlation is positive. These properties provide an economic rationale for the provision of "support for low-income consumers" as mandated by the universal service and similar regulatory policies. Finally, we show that with correlated characteristics, implementation can be achieved through two separate functions: a pricing function that depends only on the public sector output and a tax function that depends only on income. Copyright 2002 by Blackwell Publishing Inc.

Suggested Citation

  • Cremer, Helmuth & Gahvari, Firouz, 2002. " Nonlinear Pricing, Redistribution, and Optimal Tax Policy," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 4(2), pages 139-161.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:jpbect:v:4:y:2002:i:2:p:139-61
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    Cited by:

    1. De Borger, Bruno, 2000. "Optimal two-part tariffs in a model of discrete choice," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(1), pages 127-150, April.
    2. Helmuth Cremer & Firouz Gahvari, 2013. "Atkinson-Stiglitz and Ramsey Reconciled: Pareto Efficient Taxation and Pricing under a Break-Even Constraint," CESifo Working Paper Series 4248, CESifo Group Munich.
    3. Andersson, Tommy, 2005. "Nonlinear Pricing and the Utility Possibility Set," Working Papers 2005:19, Lund University, Department of Economics.
    4. Radulescu, Doina & Feger, Fabian, 2017. "One vs. Two Instruments for Redistribution: The Case of Public Utility Pricing," Annual Conference 2017 (Vienna): Alternative Structures for Money and Banking 168138, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    5. Janet Currie & Firouz Gahvari, 2008. "Transfers in Cash and In-Kind: Theory Meets the Data," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 46(2), pages 333-383, June.
    6. Antonio Russo, 2015. "Pricing of Transport Networks, Redistribution, and Optimal Taxation," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 17(5), pages 605-640, October.
    7. Stéphane Gauthier & Fanny Henriet, 2016. "Consumption taxes and taste heterogeneity," Working Papers halshs-01252563, HAL.
    8. Gauthier, Stéphane & Henriet, Fanny, 2018. "Commodity taxes and taste heterogeneity," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 101(C), pages 284-296.
    9. Stéphane Gauthier & Fanny Henriet, 2016. "Consumption taxes and taste heterogeneity," Université Paris1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Post-Print and Working Papers) halshs-01252563, HAL.
    10. repec:spr:sochwe:v:49:y:2017:i:1:d:10.1007_s00355-017-1046-8 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H40 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - General
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods
    • H50 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - General
    • H60 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - General

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