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Market Power and the Laffer Curve

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  • Eugenio J. Miravete
  • Katja Seim
  • Jeff Thurk

Abstract

We study commodity taxation and characterize the Laffer curve, a trade‐off between tax rates and revenue, in noncompetitive markets. Pricing in these markets leads to incomplete tax pass‐through and agents re optimize their purchase and pricing decisions in response to any tax change. We use detailed data from Pennsylvania, a state that monopolizes retail sales of alcoholic beverages, to estimate a model of demand for horizontally differentiated products that ties consumers' demographic characteristics to heterogeneous preferences for spirits. We find that under the state's current tax policy, spirits are overpriced. Distillers respond to decreases in the tax rate by increasing wholesale prices, which limits the state's revenue gain to only 13% of the incremental tax revenue predicted under the common assumption of perfect competition. The strategic response of noncompetitive firms to changes in taxation therefore flattens the Laffer curve significantly.

Suggested Citation

  • Eugenio J. Miravete & Katja Seim & Jeff Thurk, 2018. "Market Power and the Laffer Curve," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 86(5), pages 1651-1687, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:emetrp:v:86:y:2018:i:5:p:1651-1687
    DOI: 10.3982/ECTA12307
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    Cited by:

    1. Eugenio J. Miravete & Katja Seim & Jeff Thurk, 2020. "One Markup to Rule Them All: Taxation by Liquor Pricing Regulation," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 12(1), pages 1-41, February.
    2. Lin, Boqiang & Jia, Zhijie, 2019. "Tax rate, government revenue and economic performance: A perspective of Laffer curve," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 56(C), pages 1-1.
    3. Rachel Griffith & Martin O'Connell & Kate Smith, 2020. "Price floors and externality correction," IFS Working Papers W20/37, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
    4. Gehrsitz, Markus & Saffer, Henry & Grossman, Michael, 2021. "The effect of changes in alcohol tax differentials on alcohol consumption," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 204(C).
    5. Griffith, Rachel & O’Connell, Martin & Smith, Kate, 2019. "Tax design in the alcohol market," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 172(C), pages 20-35.
    6. Keaton Miller & Boyoung Seo, 2021. "The Effect of Cannabis Legalization on Substance Demand and Tax Revenues," National Tax Journal, University of Chicago Press, vol. 74(1), pages 107-145.
    7. Matthew Grennan & Robert J. Town, 2020. "Regulating Innovation with Uncertain Quality: Information, Risk, and Access in Medical Devices," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 110(1), pages 120-161, January.
    8. Øyvind Thomassen & Howard Smith & Stephan Seiler & Pasquale Schiraldi, 2017. "Multi-category Competition and Market Power: A Model of Supermarket Pricing," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 107(8), pages 2308-2351, August.
    9. Gastón Illanes & Sarah Moshary, 2020. "Market Structure and Product Assortment: Evidence from a Natural Experiment in Liquor Licensure," NBER Working Papers 27016, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Dearing, Adam, 2022. "Estimating structural demand and supply models using tax rates as instruments," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 205(C).
    11. Amit Gandhi & Jean-François Houde, 2019. "Measuring Substitution Patterns in Differentiated-Products Industries," NBER Working Papers 26375, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Seungjin Han & Josip Lesica, 2021. "Differentiated Excise Taxation in the Beer Market," Department of Economics Working Papers 2021-10, McMaster University.
    13. Martin O'Connell & Kate Smith, 2021. "Optimal sin taxation and market power," IFS Working Papers W21/30, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
    14. Antoniou, Fabio & Fiocco, Raffaele, 2020. "Storable good market with intertemporal cost variations," MPRA Paper 97948, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    15. Brett Hollenbeck & Kosuke Uetake, 2021. "Taxation and market power in the legal marijuana industry," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 52(3), pages 559-595, September.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • L12 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Monopoly; Monopolization Strategies
    • L21 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Business Objectives of the Firm
    • L32 - Industrial Organization - - Nonprofit Organizations and Public Enterprise - - - Public Enterprises; Public-Private Enterprises

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