IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this article

Is commodity taxation unfair?

  • Fleurbaey, Marc

In a model where agents have unequal skills and heterogeneous preferences about consumption goods and leisure, this paper studies how to combine commodity taxes and non-linear income tax. It proposes a particular social welfare function on the basis of fairness principles. It then derives a simple criterion for evaluating the social welfare consequences of various tax schedules. Under the proposed approach, the optimal tax should have no commodity tax for some range of consumptions, and income redistribution would feature high subsidies to the working poor. It is also shown that, even when the income tax fails to be optimal, commodity taxes may not improve social welfare.

(This abstract was borrowed from another version of this item.)

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

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

Volume (Year): 90 (2006)
Issue (Month): 10-11 (November)
Pages: 1765-1787

in new window

Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:90:y:2006:i:10-11:p:1765-1787
Contact details of provider: Web page:

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Marc Fleurbaey, 2006. "Social welfare, priority to the worst-off and the dimensions of individual well-being," Post-Print hal-00246841, HAL.
  2. Saez, Emmanuel, 2002. "The desirability of commodity taxation under non-linear income taxation and heterogeneous tastes," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 83(2), pages 217-230, February.
  3. Samuelson, P. A., 1986. "Theory of optimal taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 137-143, July.
  4. Cremer, Helmuth & Gahvari, Firouz, 1995. "Uncertainty and optimal taxation: In defense of commodity taxes," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(2), pages 291-310, February.
  5. Robin Boadway & Maurice Marchand & Pierre Pestieau & María del Mar Racionero, 2002. "Optimal Redistribution with Heterogeneous Preferences for Leisure," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 4(4), pages 475-498, October.
  6. Marc Fleurbaey & Maurice Salles & John Weymark, 2008. "Justice, Political Liberalism and Utilitarianism," Post-Print hal-00246415, HAL.
  7. Guesnerie, Roger, 1977. "On the direction of tax reform," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 7(2), pages 179-202, April.
  8. Yukihiro Nishimura, 2003. "Optimal commodity taxation for reduction of envy," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 21(3), pages 501-527, December.
  9. CREMER, Helmuth & PESTIEAU , Pierre & ROCHET, Jean-Charles, . "Direct versus indirect taxation: the design of the tax structure revisited," CORE Discussion Papers RP 1528, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  10. Christiansen, Vidar, 1984. "Which commodity taxes should supplement the income tax?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 195-220, July.
  11. Armstrong, Mark, 1996. "Multiproduct Nonlinear Pricing," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 64(1), pages 51-75, January.
  12. Konishi, Hideo, 1995. "A Pareto-improving commodity tax reform under a smooth nonlinear income tax," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(3), pages 413-446, March.
  13. Fleurbaey, Marc & Suzumura, Kotaro & Tadenuma, Koichi, 2002. "Arrovian Aggregation in Economic Environments: How Much Should We Know About Indifference Surfaces?," Discussion Papers 2002-10, Graduate School of Economics, Hitotsubashi University.
  14. BOADWAY, Robin & MARCHAND, Maurice & PESTIEAU, Pierre, 1992. "Towards a theory of the direct-indirect tax mix," CORE Discussion Papers 1992026, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  15. Marc Fleurbaey & Francois Maniquet, 2002. "Fair Income Tax," Economics Working Papers 0021, Institute for Advanced Study, School of Social Science.
  16. Jean-Charles Rochet & Philippe Chone, 1998. "Ironing, Sweeping, and Multidimensional Screening," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 66(4), pages 783-826, July.
  17. Vidar Christiansen, 1981. "Evaluation of Public Projects under Optimal Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 48(3), pages 447-457.
  18. Cécile Boyer & Christian Gourieroux & Gaëlle Le Fol, 2001. "Ajustement des prix bid et ask en présence d'information privée," Working Papers 2001-25, Centre de Recherche en Economie et Statistique.
  19. Marc Fleurbaey & François Maniquet, 2008. "Fair social orderings," Post-Print hal-00246525, HAL.
  20. François Maniquet & Yves Sprumont, 2004. "Fair Production and Allocation of an Excludable Nonrival Good," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 72(2), pages 627-640, 03.
  21. Sören Blomquist & Vidar Christiansen, 2004. "Taxation and Heterogeneous Preferences," CESifo Working Paper Series 1244, CESifo Group Munich.
  22. MANIQUET, François & SPRUMONT, Yves, . "Welfare egalitarianism in non-rival environments," CORE Discussion Papers RP 1826, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  23. Decoster, Andre & Schokkaert, Erik & Van Camp, Guy, 1997. "Is redistribution through indirect taxes equitable?," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 41(3-5), pages 599-608, April.
  24. Guy Laroque, 2004. "Indirect Taxation is Superfluous under Separability and Taste Homogeneity : A Simple Proof," Working Papers 2004-23, Centre de Recherche en Economie et Statistique.
  25. Robin Boadway & Michael Keen, 1991. "Public Goods, Self-Selection and Optimal Income Taxation," Working Papers 828, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  26. Marc Fleurbaey & François Maniquet, 2007. "Help the low-skilled or let the hardworking thrive? A study of fairness in optimal income taxation," Post-Print hal-00246569, HAL.
  27. Naito, Hisahiro, 1999. "Re-examination of uniform commodity taxes under a non-linear income tax system and its implication for production efficiency," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 71(2), pages 165-188, February.
  28. Alkan, Ahmet & Demange, Gabrielle & Gale, David, 1991. "Fair Allocation of Indivisible Goods and Criteria of Justice," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 59(4), pages 1023-39, July.
  29. Tatsuo Hatta, 1977. "A Theory of Piecemeal Policy Recommendations," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 44(1), pages 1-21.
  30. Nishimura, Yukihiro, 2003. "Optimal non-linear income taxation for reduction of envy," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(2), pages 363-386, February.
  31. Atkinson, A. B. & Stiglitz, J. E., 1976. "The design of tax structure: Direct versus indirect taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(1-2), pages 55-75.
  32. Feldstein, Martin, 1976. "On the theory of tax reform," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(1-2), pages 77-104.
  33. J. A. Mirrlees, 1971. "An Exploration in the Theory of Optimum Income Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 38(2), pages 175-208.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:90:y:2006:i:10-11:p:1765-1787. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Shamier, Wendy)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.