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The balance between specific and ad valorem taxation

  • Michael Keen

A recurring issue in indirect tax design — most obviously, but not only, for goods traditionally subject to heavy excises — is the appropriate balance between specific and ad valorem taxation. Recent work has developed new perspectives on the issue, which is also one of the oldest in the formal study of public finance. This paper provides a broadly non-technical account of the central considerations that arise in choosing the balance between specific and ad valorem taxation, reviewing and somewhat extending the lessons of theory and experience. There emerge clear presumptions as to the relative effects of the two kinds of tax on such attributes as price, profits, product quality and variety. But the socially optimal balance between them is likely to be quite sensitive to the characteristics of the market at issue.

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File URL: http://www.ifs.org.uk/fs/articles/fsmick1.pdf
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Article provided by Institute for Fiscal Studies in its journal Fiscal Studies.

Volume (Year): 19 (1998)
Issue (Month): 1 (February)
Pages: 1-37

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Handle: RePEc:ifs:fistud:v:19:y:1998:i:1:p:1-37
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  1. Cremer, Helmuth & Thisse, Jacques-Francois, 1994. "Commodity Taxation in a Differentiated Oligopoly," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 35(3), pages 613-33, August.
  2. Dickie, M. & Trandel, G.A., 1993. "Comparing Specific and Ad Vaslorem Pigouvian Taxes and Output Quotas," Papers 431, Georgia - College of Business Administration, Department of Economics.
  3. Myles, Gareth D, 1987. "Some Implications of Quality Differentials for Optimal Taxation," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 98(390), pages 148-60, Supplemen.
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  6. Sumner, Michael, 1993. "Tax on Price: A Comment," Public Finance = Finances publiques, , vol. 48(2), pages 297-302.
  7. Besley, Timothy J. & Rosen, Harvey S., 1999. "Sales Taxes and Prices: An Empirical Analysis," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 52(n. 2), pages 157-78, June.
  8. Paul Baker & Vanessa Brechling, 1992. "The impact of excise duty changes on retail prices in the UK," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 13(2), pages 48-65, January.
  9. Barzel, Yoram, 1976. "An Alternative Approach to the Analysis of Taxation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 84(6), pages 1177-97, December.
  10. Barnett, Paul G. & Keeler, Theodore E. & Hu, Teh-wei, 1995. "Oligopoly structure and the incidence of cigarette excise taxes," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(3), pages 457-470, July.
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