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Optimal Taxation with Private Government Information


  • Christopher Sleet


The Ramsey model of fiscal policy implies that taxes should be smooth in the sense of having small variances. In contrast, empirical labour tax processes are smooth in the sense of being random walks; they provide prima facie evidence for incomplete government insurance. This paper considers whether private government information might lie behind such incomplete insurance. It shows that optimal incentive compatible policies exhibit limited use of state contingent debt and greater persistence in taxes and debt, and it argues that they are better approximations to empirical fiscal policies than those implied by the Ramsey model. The paper also establishes that optimal incentive compatible allocations converge to allocations such that the government's incentive compatibility constraint no longer binds. Generally, these limiting allocations are ones in which the government is maximally indebted. Their credibility and the interaction of incentive compatibility and credibility is briefly discussed. Copyright 2004, Wiley-Blackwell.

Suggested Citation

  • Christopher Sleet, 2004. "Optimal Taxation with Private Government Information," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 71(4), pages 1217-1239.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:restud:v:71:y:2004:i:4:p:1217-1239

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Huang, Chao-Hsi & Lin, Kenneth S., 1993. "Deficits, government expenditures, and tax smoothing in the United States: 1929-1988," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(3), pages 317-339, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Antje Berndt & Hanno Lustig & Şevin Yeltekin, 2012. "How Does the US Government Finance Fiscal Shocks?," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 4(1), pages 69-104, January.
    2. Marcet, Albert & Scott, Andrew, 2009. "Debt and deficit fluctuations and the structure of bond markets," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 144(2), pages 473-501, March.
    3. Hall, George J. & Sargent, Thomas J., 2014. "Fiscal discriminations in three wars," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(C), pages 148-166.
    4. Facundo Albornoz & Joan-Maria Esteban & Paolo Vanin, 2009. "Government Information Transparency," Working Papers 392, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
    5. Alessandro Dovis, 2013. "Efficient Sovereign Default," 2013 Meeting Papers 293, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    6. Elizabeth Brainerd & Nidhiya Menon, 2013. "Religion and Health in Early Childhood: Evidence from the Indian Subcontinent," Working Papers 65, Brandeis University, Department of Economics and International Businesss School.
    7. Bauducco, Sofia & Caprioli, Francesco, 2014. "Optimal fiscal policy in a small open economy with limited commitment," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(2), pages 302-315.
    8. Angyridis, Constantine, 2009. "Balanced budget vs. Tax smoothing in a small open economy: A welfare comparison," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 31(3), pages 438-463, September.
    9. Marina Halac & Pierre Yared, 2014. "Fiscal Rules and Discretion Under Persistent Shocks," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 82, pages 1557-1614, September.
    10. Turdaliev, Nurlan, 2010. "Communication in repeated monetary policy games," International Review of Economics & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 19(2), pages 228-243, April.

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