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On the optimality of optimal income taxation


  • Felix J., Bierbrauer


The Mirrleesian model of income taxation restricts attention to simple allocation mechanism with no strategic interdependence, i.e., the optimal labor supply of any one individual does not depend on the labor supply of others. It has been argued by Piketty (2009) [12] that this restriction is substantial because more sophisticated mechanisms can reach first-best allocations that are out of reach with simple mechanisms. In this paper, we assess the validity of Pikettyʼs critique in an independent private values model. As a main result, we show that the optimal sophisticated mechanism is a simple mechanism, or, equivalently, a Mirrleesian income tax system.

Suggested Citation

  • Felix J., Bierbrauer, 2011. "On the optimality of optimal income taxation," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 146(5), pages 2105-2116, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jetheo:v:146:y:2011:i:5:p:2105-2116

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Hellwig, Martin F., 2007. "A contribution to the theory of optimal utilitarian income taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(7-8), pages 1449-1477, August.
    2. Kocherlakota, Narayana & Phelan, Christopher, 2009. "On the robustness of laissez-faire," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 144(6), pages 2372-2387, November.
    3. Narayana R. Kocherlakota, 2005. "Zero Expected Wealth Taxes: A Mirrlees Approach to Dynamic Optimal Taxation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 73(5), pages 1587-1621, September.
    4. Marco Bassetto & Christopher Phelan, 2008. "Tax Riots," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 75(3), pages 649-669.
    5. Mikhail Golosov & Narayana Kocherlakota & Aleh Tsyvinski, 2003. "Optimal Indirect and Capital Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 70(3), pages 569-587.
    6. Hamilton, Jonathan & Slutsky, Steven, 2007. "Optimal nonlinear income taxation with a finite population," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 132(1), pages 548-556, January.
    7. Hellwig, Martin F., 2007. "The undesirability of randomized income taxation under decreasing risk aversion," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(3-4), pages 791-816, April.
    8. Peter J. Hammond, 1979. "Straightforward Individual Incentive Compatibility in Large Economies," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 46(2), pages 263-282.
    9. Egbert Dierker & Hans Haller, 1990. "Tax systems and direct mechanisms in large finite economies," Journal of Economics, Springer, vol. 52(2), pages 99-116, June.
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