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Going Where the Money Is: Strategies for Taxing Economic Elites in Unequal Democracies

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  • Fairfield, Tasha

Abstract

How can policymakers circumvent obstacles to taxing economic elites? This question is critical for developing countries, especially in Latin America where strengthening tax capacity depends significantly on tapping under-taxed, highly-concentrated income and profits. Drawing on diverse literatures and extensive fieldwork, the paper identifies six strategies that facilitate enactment of modest tax increases by mobilizing popular support and/or tempering elite antagonism. Case studies from Chile, Argentina, and Bolivia illustrate the effect of these strategies on the fate of tax reform initiatives. The analysis builds theory on tax politics and yields implications for research on reform coalitions and gradual institutional change.

Suggested Citation

  • Fairfield, Tasha, 2013. "Going Where the Money Is: Strategies for Taxing Economic Elites in Unequal Democracies," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 47(C), pages 42-57.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:wdevel:v:47:y:2013:i:c:p:42-57
    DOI: 10.1016/j.worlddev.2013.02.011
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Thomas Piketty & Emmanuel Saez & Stefanie Stantcheva, 2014. "Optimal Taxation of Top Labor Incomes: A Tale of Three Elasticities," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 6(1), pages 230-271, February.
    2. Richard M. Bird & Eric M. Zolt, 2014. "Redistribution via Taxation: The Limited Role of the Personal Income Tax in Developing Countries," Annals of Economics and Finance, Society for AEF, vol. 15(2), pages 625-683, November.
    3. Goñi, Edwin & Humberto López, J. & Servén, Luis, 2011. "Fiscal Redistribution and Income Inequality in Latin America," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 39(9), pages 1558-1569, September.
    4. Thandika Mkandawire, 2010. "On Tax Efforts and Colonial Heritage in Africa," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 46(10), pages 1647-1669.
    5. Emmanuel Saez, 2001. "Using Elasticities to Derive Optimal Income Tax Rates," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 68(1), pages 205-229.
    6. Richard M. Bird & Eric M. Zolt, 2005. "Redistribution via Taxation: The Limited Role of the Personal Income Tax in Developing Countries (2005)," International Center for Public Policy Working Paper Series, at AYSPS, GSU paper0507, International Center for Public Policy, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University.
    7. repec:cup:apsrev:v:82:y:1988:i:01:p:11-29_08 is not listed on IDEAS
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    Cited by:

    1. Post, Alison E. & Murillo, María Victoria, 2016. "How Investor Portfolios Shape Regulatory Outcomes: Privatized Infrastructure After Crises," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 77(C), pages 328-345.
    2. Armin von Schiller, 2015. "Party System Institutionalization and Reliance on Personal Income Tax in Developing Countries," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 7351, Inter-American Development Bank.
    3. repec:eee:wdevel:v:105:y:2018:i:c:p:13-24 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Tasha Fairfield, 2015. "La economía política de la reforma tributaria progresiva en Chile," Revista de Economía Institucional, Universidad Externado de Colombia - Facultad de Economía, vol. 17(32), pages 129-156, January-J.
    5. Fairfield, Tasha & Charman, Andrew, 2017. "Explicit Bayesian analysis for process tracing: guidelines, opportunities, and caveats," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 69203, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.

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