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Tax bracket creep and its effects on income distribution

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  • Heer, Burkhard
  • Süssmuth, Bernd

Abstract

We quantitatively analyze the way inflation alters the inequality of the income distribution in the U.S. economy. The main mechanism emphasized in this paper is the “bracket creep” effect according to which inflation pushes income into higher tax brackets. Governments adjust the nominal income tax brackets slowly and incompletely due to the rise in prices. In the U.S. postwar history, this typically happens less often than once every other tax year. In the first part of the paper, we study time series from the U.S. economy. As our central result we find that irrespective of the level of inflation more frequent income tax schedule adjustments make the relationship between inflation and income inequality more transitory in nature. In the second part of the paper, we develop a general equilibrium monetary model with income heterogeneity that is in line with our time series evidence. We find that a longer duration between two successive adjustments of the tax schedule reduces employment, savings, and output.

Suggested Citation

  • Heer, Burkhard & Süssmuth, Bernd, 2013. "Tax bracket creep and its effects on income distribution," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 38(PB), pages 393-408.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jmacro:v:38:y:2013:i:pb:p:393-408 DOI: 10.1016/j.jmacro.2013.08.015
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    1. repec:aia:aiaswp:wp38 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Chang Woon Nam & Christoph Zeiner, 2015. "Effects of Bracket Creep and Tax Reform on Average Personal Income Tax Burden in Germany," CESifo Working Paper Series 5626, CESifo Group Munich.
    3. repec:eee:quaeco:v:64:y:2017:i:c:p:67-81 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Michael T. Kiley, 2007. "A Quantitative Comparison of Sticky-Price and Sticky-Information Models of Price Setting," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 39(s1), pages 101-125, February.
    5. Stuart J. Fowler, 2005. "Income Inequality, Monetary Policy, and the Business Cycle," Computing in Economics and Finance 2005 184, Society for Computational Economics.
    6. Florian Dorn & Clemens Fuest & Björn Kauder & Luisa Lorenz & Martin Mosler & Potrafke. Niklas, 2017. "Die Kalte Progression - Verteilungswirkungen eines Einkommensteuertarifs auf Rädern," ifo Schnelldienst, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 70(03), pages 28-39, February.
    7. Keinsley, Andrew, 2016. "Indexing the income tax code, monetary/fiscal interaction, and the great moderation," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 89(C), pages 1-20.
    8. Zhu, Junyi, 2015. "Bracket creep revisited - with and without r>g: Evidence from Germany," Discussion Papers 37/2015, Deutsche Bundesbank.
    9. Flores Unzaga, Ismael Martin & Zhu, Junyi, 2014. "Bracket Creep Revisited: Progressivity and a Solution by Adjusting the Rich Tax in Germany," MPRA Paper 57664, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    10. Flores Unzaga, Ismael Martin & Zhu, Junyi, 2014. "Bracket Creep Revisited: Progressivity and a Solution by Adjusting the Rich Tax in Germany," EconStor Preprints 100006, ZBW - German National Library of Economics.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Bracket creep; Progressive income taxation; Inflation; Income distribution;

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • E31 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Price Level; Inflation; Deflation
    • E44 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Financial Markets and the Macroeconomy
    • E52 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - Monetary Policy
    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy

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