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Optimal Taxation of Married Couples with Household Production


  • Henrik Jacobsen Kleven
  • Claus Thustrup Kreiner


The literature suggests that the concern for economic efficiency calls for individual-based taxation of married couples with a higher rate on the primary earner. This paper reconsiders the choice of tax unit in the Becker model of household production. In the absence of restrictions on the use of commodity taxes, efficient taxation requires joint taxation of the family. In the presence of restricted commodity taxation, the income tax should compensate for the erroneous commodity taxes. In this case, individual taxation is typically optimal, but not necessarily with a higher rate on primary earners as usually suggested.

Suggested Citation

  • Henrik Jacobsen Kleven & Claus Thustrup Kreiner, 2007. "Optimal Taxation of Married Couples with Household Production," FinanzArchiv: Public Finance Analysis, Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 63(4), pages 498-518, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:mhr:finarc:urn:sici:0015-2218(200712)63:4_498:otomcw_2.0.tx_2-c
    DOI: 10.1628/001522107X268998

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Boskin, Michael J. & Sheshinski, Eytan, 1983. "Optimal tax treatment of the family: Married couples," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(3), pages 281-297, April.
    2. Alm, James & Whittington, Leslie A., 1997. "Income taxes and the timing of marital decisions," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 64(2), pages 219-240, May.
    3. Apps, Patricia & Rees, Ray, 1999. "On the taxation of trade within and between households," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 73(2), pages 241-263, August.
    4. Patricia F. Apps & Ray Rees, 1999. "Individual versus Joint Taxation in Models with Household Production," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(2), pages 393-403, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Volker Meier & Helmut Rainer, 2012. "Beyond Ramsey: Gender-Based Taxation with Non-Cooperative Couples," CESifo Working Paper Series 3966, CESifo Group Munich.
    2. Cremer, Helmuth & Lozachmeur, Jean-Marie & Maldonado, Dario & Roeder, Kerstin, 2016. "Household bargaining and the design of couples’ income taxation," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 89(C), pages 454-470.
    3. Volker Meier & Matthias Wrede, 2013. "Reducing the excess burden of subsidizing the stork: joint taxation, individual taxation, and family tax splitting," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 26(3), pages 1195-1207, July.
    4. Meier, Volker & Rainer, Helmut, 2015. "Pigou meets Ramsey: Gender-based taxation with non-cooperative couples," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 77(C), pages 28-46.
    5. Immervoll, Herwig & Kleven, Henrik Jacobsen & Kreiner, Claus Thustrup & Verdelin, Nicolaj, 2011. "Optimal tax and transfer programs for couples with extensive labor supply responses," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(11), pages 1485-1500.
    6. repec:spr:epolit:v:34:y:2017:i:2:d:10.1007_s40888-016-0043-1 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item


    optimal taxation; married couples; home production;

    JEL classification:

    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation
    • D13 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Production and Intrahouse Allocation
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply


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