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The welfare cost of uncertain tax policy

  • Skinner, Jonathan

Frequent shifts in tax policy can increase uncertainty about future net-of-tax wages and interest income. This paper measures the impact of uncertain tax policy on savings, labor supply, and welfare in the United States. A vector autoregression model with six variables was estimated which found the standard error of the one-year-ahead forecast for the wage tax to be 1.8 percentage points, and for the interest income tax 3.3 percentage points. Furthermore, the negative correlation between unanticipated shifts in the real interest rate and changes in the interest income tax amplifies the variability in the real after-tax return. A two-period model of consumption and labor supply is developed that measures the effect of uncertain taxes on savings, work hours, and taxpayer welfare. Using plausible empirical parameters, it is shown that removing all uncertainty about future tax policy can lead to a welfare gain of 0.4 percent of national income, or about 12 billion dollars in 1985.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Public Economics.

Volume (Year): 37 (1988)
Issue (Month): 2 (November)
Pages: 129-145

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Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:37:y:1988:i:2:p:129-145
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505578

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  1. Kanbur, S M Ravi, 1983. "Labour Supply under Uncertainty with Piecewise Linear Tax Regimes," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 50(200), pages 379-94, November.
  2. Auerbach, Alan J & Kotlikoff, Laurence J & Skinner, Jonathan, 1983. "The Efficiency Gains from Dynamic Tax Reform," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 24(1), pages 81-100, February.
  3. Weber, Warren E, 1975. "Interest Rates, Inflation, and Consumer Expenditures," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 65(5), pages 843-58, December.
  4. Barro, Robert J., 1979. "On the Determination of the Public Debt," Scholarly Articles 3451400, Harvard University Department of Economics.
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  8. Robert J. Barro & Chaipat Sahasakul, 1983. "Measuring the Average Marginal Tax Rate from the Individual Income Tax," University of Chicago - George G. Stigler Center for Study of Economy and State 26, Chicago - Center for Study of Economy and State.
  9. Robert J. Barro, 1984. "The Behavior of U.S. Deficits," University of Chicago - George G. Stigler Center for Study of Economy and State 32, Chicago - Center for Study of Economy and State.
  10. Hansen, Lars Peter & Singleton, Kenneth J, 1983. "Stochastic Consumption, Risk Aversion, and the Temporal Behavior of Asset Returns," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 91(2), pages 249-65, April.
  11. Eaton, Jonathan & Rosen, Harvey S., 1980. "Labor supply, uncertainty, and efficient taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(3), pages 365-374, December.
  12. Seater, John J., 1985. "On the construction of marginal federal personal and social security tax rates in the U.S," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(1), pages 121-135, January.
  13. Alan J. Auerbach & James R. Hines Jr., 1986. "Tax Reform, Investment, and the Value of the Firm," NBER Working Papers 1803, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  15. Gilbert Ghez & Gary S. Becker, 1975. "The Allocation of Time and Goods over the Life Cycle," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number ghez75-1, December.
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