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Global Reform of Personal Income Taxation, 1981-2005: Evidence from 189 Countries

In this paper we use a panel of 189 countries to describe the salient trends that have emerged in national personal income tax systems spanning the twenty five year period from 1981 to 2005. Using complete national income tax schedules with statutory rates, thresholds, country-specific tax formulas and other information, we calculate actual average and marginal tax rates at different income levels as well as time-varying measures of structural progressivity and complexity of national tax systems. Overall, our analysis shows a significant transition from complex, graduated tax schedules that featured multiple tax brackets and stair stepped tax rates to simpler, flatter tax schedules distinguished by fewer tax brackets and lower rates. The emerging trend toward flat tax schedules is also highlighted. We show that frequent alterations of tax structures have diminished the overall progressivity and complexity of national tax systems; however, the degree of this change varies considerably by country group.

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File URL: http://icepp.gsu.edu/files/2015/03/ispwp0721.pdf
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Paper provided by International Center for Public Policy, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University in its series International Center for Public Policy Working Paper Series, at AYSPS, GSU with number paper0721.

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Length: 46 pages
Date of creation: 01 Dec 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ays:ispwps:paper0721
Contact details of provider: Phone: 404-413-0235
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Web page: http://aysps.gsu.edu/isp/index.html

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  1. Mendoza, Enrique G. & Razin, Assaf & Tesar, Linda L., 1994. "Effective tax rates in macroeconomics: Cross-country estimates of tax rates on factor incomes and consumption," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 34(3), pages 297-323, December.
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  6. Feldstein, Martin, 1995. "Effect of Marginal Tax Rates on Taxable Income: A Panel Study of the 1986 Tax Reform Act," Scholarly Articles 2766676, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  7. Meltzer, Allan H & Richard, Scott F, 1981. "A Rational Theory of the Size of Government," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 914-27, October.
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  12. Joel Slemrod & Nikki Sorum, 1984. "The Compliance Cost of the U.S. Individual Income Tax System," NBER Working Papers 1401, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Joel Slemrod, 1992. "Did the Tax Reform Act of 1986 Simplify Tax Matters?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 6(1), pages 45-57, Winter.
  14. Easterly, William & Rebelo, Sergio, 1992. "Marginal income tax rates and economic growth in developing countries," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1050, The World Bank.
  15. Friedman, Eric & Johnson, Simon & Kaufmann, Daniel & Zoido-Lobaton, Pablo, 2000. "Dodging the grabbing hand: the determinants of unofficial activity in 69 countries," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(3), pages 459-493, June.
  16. Bird, Richard M. & Zolt, Eric M., 2005. "The limited role of the personal income tax in developing countries," Journal of Asian Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(6), pages 928-946, December.
  17. Crane, Steven E & Nourzad, Farrokh, 1986. "Inflation and Tax Evasion: An Empirical Analysis," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 68(2), pages 217-23, May.
  18. Martin Feldstein, 1993. "The Effect of Marginal Tax Rates on Taxable Income: A Panel Study of the1986 Tax Reform Act," NBER Working Papers 4496, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. R. A. Musgrave & Tun Thin, 1948. "Income Tax Progression, 1929-48," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 56, pages 498.
  20. Persson, T. & Tabellini, G., 1993. "Is Inequality Harmful for Growth," Papers 537, Stockholm - International Economic Studies.
  21. Peter, Klara Sabirianova, 2009. "Income Tax Flattening: Does It Help to Reduce the Shadow Economy?," IZA Discussion Papers 4223, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  22. Milanovic, Branko, 2000. "The median-voter hypothesis, income inequality, and income redistribution: an empirical test with the required data," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 16(3), pages 367-410, September.
  23. Roy W. Bahl & Richard M. Bird, 2008. "Tax Policy in Developing Countries: Looking Back and Forward," Working Papers Series 13, Rotman Institute for International Business, Joseph L. Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto, revised May 2008.
  24. Young, H Peyton, 1990. "Progressive Taxation and Equal Sacrifice," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(1), pages 253-66, March.
  25. Johnson, Simon & Kaufmann, Daniel & Zoido-Lobaton, Pablo, 1998. "Regulatory Discretion and the Unofficial Economy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(2), pages 387-92, May.
  26. Sicat, Gerardo P & Virmani, Arvind, 1988. "Personal Income Taxes in Developing Countries," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 2(1), pages 123-38, January.
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