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High-Income Families and the Tax Changes of the 1980s: The Anatomy of Behavioral Response

In: Empirical Foundations of Household Taxation

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  • Joel Slemrod

Abstract

The relative income gains of the affluent after the passage of the Tax Reform Act of 1986 (TRA86), which sharply lowered tax rates at high income levels, are overstated by comparing cross-sectional slices using concurrent income definitions, but they are large nevertheless. Although an index of the demand-side factors affecting inequality throughout the income distribution can explain much of the increased high-income concentration until 1985, it cannot adequately explain the post-TRA86 spurt. Thus, TRA86 is likely to have been a principal cause of the large increase in the reported personal income of the affluent. A close look at the sources of the post-1986 increases in the reported individual income of high-income households suggests that much of it represents shifting of income -- for example, from the corporate tax base to the individual tax base -- and not income creation such as additional labor supply. This distinction is critical because knowing how much the reported individual income of a particular group of people changes in response to a tax change is not a sufficient statistic for evaluating adequately its revenue consequences, incidence, and efficiency.
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Suggested Citation

  • Joel Slemrod, 1996. "High-Income Families and the Tax Changes of the 1980s: The Anatomy of Behavioral Response," NBER Chapters,in: Empirical Foundations of Household Taxation, pages 169-192 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:6240
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Richard V. Burkhauser & Shuaizhang Feng & Stephen P. Jenkins & Jeff Larrimore, 2009. "Recent trends in top income shares in the USA: Reconciling estimates from March CPS and IRS tax return data," Working Papers 139, ECINEQ, Society for the Study of Economic Inequality.
    2. Adam Looney & Monica Singhal, 2005. "The effect of anticipated tax changes on intertemporal labor supply and the realization of taxable income," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2005-44, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    3. Louis Lévy-Garboua & David Masclet & Claude Montmarquette, 2006. "Fiscalité et offre de travail : une étude expérimentale," Economie & Prévision, La Documentation Française, vol. 0(4), pages 135-145.
    4. le Maire, Daniel & Schjerning, Bertel, 2013. "Tax bunching, income shifting and self-employment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 107(C), pages 1-18.
    5. Sillamaa, Mary-Anne & Veall, Michael R., 2001. "The effect of marginal tax rates on taxable income: a panel study of the 1988 tax flattening in Canada," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 80(3), pages 341-356, June.
    6. Richard Burkhauser & Shuaizhang Feng & Stephen Jenkins & Jeff Larrimore, 2011. "Estimating trends in US income inequality using the Current Population Survey: the importance of controlling for censoring," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 9(3), pages 393-415, September.
    7. Richard Burkhauser & Markus Hahn & Roger Wilkins, 2015. "Measuring top incomes using tax record data: a cautionary tale from Australia," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 13(2), pages 181-205, June.
    8. Gruber, Jon & Saez, Emmanuel, 2002. "The elasticity of taxable income: evidence and implications," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(1), pages 1-32, April.
    9. repec:ntj:journl:v:70:y:2017:i:2:p:367-392 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Frydman, Carola & Molloy, Raven S., 2011. "Does tax policy affect executive compensation? Evidence from postwar tax reforms," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(11), pages 1425-1437.
    11. A B Atkinson & Andrew Leigh, 2010. "The Distribution of Top Incomes in Five Anglo-Saxon Countries over the Twentieth Century," CEPR Discussion Papers 640, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
    12. Weber, Caroline E., 2014. "Toward obtaining a consistent estimate of the elasticity of taxable income using difference-in-differences," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 117(C), pages 90-103.
    13. Das-Gupta, Arindam, 2004. "The Income tax compliance cost of corporations in India, 2000-01," Working Papers 04/8, National Institute of Public Finance and Policy.
    14. Emmanuel Saez & Joel Slemrod & Seth H. Giertz, 2012. "The Elasticity of Taxable Income with Respect to Marginal Tax Rates: A Critical Review," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 50(1), pages 3-50, March.
    15. Moriguchi, Chiaki, 2010. "Top wage incomes in Japan, 1951-2005," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 24(3), pages 301-333, September.
    16. Sergei Soares & Fernando Gaiger Silveira & Claudio Hamilton dos Santos & Fábio Monteiro Vaz & André Luis Souza, 2009. "O Potencial Distributivo do Imposto de Rendapessoa Física (IRPF)," Discussion Papers 1433, Instituto de Pesquisa Econômica Aplicada - IPEA.
    17. Saez, Emmanuel, 2003. "The effect of marginal tax rates on income: a panel study of 'bracket creep'," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(5-6), pages 1231-1258, May.
    18. Douglas L. Campbell & Lester Lusher, 2016. "Trade Shocks, Taxes, and Inequality," Working Papers w0220, Center for Economic and Financial Research (CEFIR).
    19. Doerrenberg, Philipp & Peichl, Andreas & Siegloch, Sebastian, 2014. "Sufficient Statistic or Not? The Elasticity of Taxable Income in the Presence of Deduction Possibilities," IZA Discussion Papers 8554, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    20. Gorry, Aspen & Hassett, Kevin A. & Hubbard, R. Glenn & Mathur, Aparna, 2017. "The response of deferred executive compensation to changes in tax rates," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 151(C), pages 28-40.
    21. Matikka, Tuomas, 2014. "Taxable Income Elasticity and the Anatomy of Behavioral Response: Evidence from Finland," Working Papers 55, VATT Institute for Economic Research.
    22. repec:eee:pubeco:v:151:y:2017:i:c:p:41-55 is not listed on IDEAS
    23. Nada Eissa, 1996. "Tax Reforms and Labor Supply," NBER Chapters,in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 10, pages 119-151 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    24. Doerrenberg, Philipp & Peichl, Andreas & Siegloch, Sebastian, 2017. "The elasticity of taxable income in the presence of deduction possibilities," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 151(C), pages 41-55.

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    JEL classification:

    • H2 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue

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