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The elasticity of taxable income and income-shifting between tax bases: what is “real” and what is not?

  • Jarkko Harju


    (Government Institute for Economic Research, Finland)

  • Tuomas Matikka


    (Government Institute for Economic Research, Finland)

Previous literature shows that income taxation especially affects the behaviour of business owners and entrepreneurs. However, it is still unclear how much of the response is due to changes in effort and other real economic activity, and how much is due to tax avoidance and tax evasion. This is important because the nature of the response largely affects the welfare implications and policy recommendations. In this paper we distinguish between real responses and tax-motivated income- shifting between tax bases using the widely-applied elasticity of taxable income (ETI) framework. We use extensive register-based panel data on both the owner and firm-level, which enable us to carefully distinguish between real effects and income-shifting among the owners of privately held corporations in Finland. Our results show that income-shifting accounts for over two thirds of the overall ETI. As the shifted income is also taxed, this significantly decreases the marginal excess burden of income taxation compared to the standard model in which the overall ETI defines the welfare loss. However, in addition to income-shifting effects, we find that dividend taxation significantly affects the real behaviour of the owners.

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Paper provided by Oxford University Centre for Business Taxation in its series Working Papers with number 1313.

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Date of creation: 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:btx:wpaper:1313
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  1. repec:oup:qjecon:v:126:y:2011:i:2:p:749-804 is not listed on IDEAS
  2. Jarkko Harju & Tuomas Matikka, 2013. "Entrepreneurs and income-shifting: Empirical evidence from a Finnish tax reform," Working Papers 43, Government Institute for Economic Research Finland (VATT).
  3. Michael Devereux & Li Liu & Simon Loretz, 2012. "The Elasticity of Corporate Taxable Income: New Evidence from UK Tax Records," Working Papers 1223, Oxford University Centre for Business Taxation.
  4. Bastani, Spencer & Selin, Håkan, 2011. "Bunching and Non-Bunching at Kink Points of the Swedish Tax schedule," Working Paper Series, Center for Fiscal Studies 2011:12, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.
  5. Raj Chetty, 2008. "Is the Taxable Income Elasticity Sufficient to Calculate Deadweight Loss? The Implications of Evasion and Avoidance," NBER Working Papers 13844, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Chetty, Nadarajan, 2012. "Bounds on Elasticities With Optimization Frictions: A Synthesis of Micro and Macro Evidence on Labor Supply," Scholarly Articles 9748524, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  7. 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.
  8. Sören Blomquist & Håkan Selin, 2009. "Hourly Wage Rate and Taxable Labor Income Responsiveness to Changes in Marginal Tax Rates," CESifo Working Paper Series 2644, CESifo Group Munich.
  9. Jarkko Harju & Tuomas Kosonen, 2012. "The Impact of Tax Incentives on the Economic Activity of Entrepreneurs," NBER Working Papers 18442, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Emmanuel Saez, 2010. "Do Taxpayers Bunch at Kink Points?," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 2(3), pages 180-212, August.
  11. Raj Chetty & John N. Friedman & Tore Olsen & Luigi Pistaferri, 2009. "Adjustment Costs, Firm Responses, and Micro vs. Macro Labor Supply Elasticities: Evidence from Danish Tax Records," NBER Working Papers 15617, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. 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.
  13. Seppo Kari & Hanna Karikallio & Jukka Pirttilä, 2008. "Anticipating Tax Changes: Evidence from the Finnish Corporate Income Tax Reform of 2005," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 29(2), pages 167-196, 06.
  14. Daniel le Maire & Bertel Schjerningo, 2012. "Tax Bunching, Income Shifting and Self-employment," EPRU Working Paper Series 2012-04, Economic Policy Research Unit (EPRU), University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
  15. Emmanuel Saez, 2004. "Reported Incomes and Marginal Tax Rates, 1960-2000: Evidence and Policy Implications," NBER Chapters, in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 18, pages 117-174 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Austan Goolsbee, 2000. "What Happens When You Tax the Rich? Evidence from Executive Compensation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(2), pages 352-378, April.
  17. Martin Feldstein, 1995. "Tax Avoidance and the Deadweight Loss of the Income Tax," NBER Working Papers 5055, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Jukka Pirttilä & Håkan Selin, 2011. "Income Shifting within a Dual Income Tax System: Evidence from the Finnish Tax Reform of 1993," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 113(1), pages 120-144, 03.
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