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The optimal two-bracket linear income tax

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  • Slemrod, Joel
  • Yitzhaki, Shlomo
  • Mayshar, Joram
  • Lundholm, Michael

Abstract

We investigate the optimal rate structure of an income tax system that is constrained to have only two brackets, plus a demogrant. We find that, in a two-class economy, Pareto efficient tax schedules feature at least one marginal tax rate equal to zero, and that the marginal tax rate may be increasing or declining. We next use numerical optimization techniques to study the optimal structure of such a tax system in a multi-person model that is a stylized version of an actual economy. We discover that in all cases the tax rate in the second (higher) bracket is less than the tax rate that applies to the first bracket but that progressivity, in the sense of a uniformly rising average tax rate, generally obtains. Compared to the optimal one-bracket (linear) tax system, both the highest and lowest income individuals are better off, while a middle range of taxpayers is worse off.
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Suggested Citation

  • Slemrod, Joel & Yitzhaki, Shlomo & Mayshar, Joram & Lundholm, Michael, 1994. "The optimal two-bracket linear income tax," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(2), pages 269-290, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:53:y:1994:i:2:p:269-290
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    1. Stiglitz, Joseph E., 1987. "Pareto efficient and optimal taxation and the new new welfare economics," Handbook of Public Economics,in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 15, pages 991-1042 Elsevier.
    2. Mirrlees, J. A., 1976. "Optimal tax theory : A synthesis," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(4), pages 327-358, November.
    3. Sheshinski, Eytan, 1989. "Note on the shape of the optimum income tax schedule," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(2), pages 201-215, November.
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    5. Stern, N. H., 1976. "On the specification of models of optimum income taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(1-2), pages 123-162.
    6. Seade, J. K., 1977. "On the shape of optimal tax schedules," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 7(2), pages 203-235, April.
    7. Yitzhaki, Shlomo, 1982. "A tax programming model," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(1), pages 107-120, October.
    8. Efraim Sadka, 1976. "On Income Distribution, Incentive Effects and Optimal Income Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 43(2), pages 261-267.
    9. Eytan Sheshinski, 1972. "The Optimal Linear Income-tax," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 39(3), pages 297-302.
    10. Stiglitz, Joseph E., 1982. "Self-selection and Pareto efficient taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(2), pages 213-240, March.
    11. Edmund S. Phelps, 1973. "Taxation of Wage Income for Economic Justice," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 87(3), pages 331-354.
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