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

Author

Listed:
  • Jarkko Harju

    () (Government Institute for Economic Research, Finland)

  • Tuomas Matikka

    () (Government Institute for Economic Research, Finland)

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Jarkko Harju & Tuomas Matikka, 2013. "The elasticity of taxable income and income-shifting between tax bases: what is “real” and what is not?," Working Papers 1313, Oxford University Centre for Business Taxation.
  • Handle: RePEc:btx:wpaper:1313
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    File URL: http://www.sbs.ox.ac.uk/sites/default/files/Business_Taxation/Docs/Publications/Working_Papers/Series_13/WP1313.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Raj Chetty, 2009. "Is the Taxable Income Elasticity Sufficient to Calculate Deadweight Loss? The Implications of Evasion and Avoidance," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 1(2), pages 31-52, August.
    2. Martin Feldstein, 1999. "Tax Avoidance And The Deadweight Loss Of The Income Tax," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 81(4), pages 674-680, November.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. Raj Chetty & John N. Friedman & Tore Olsen & Luigi Pistaferri, 2011. "Adjustment Costs, Firm Responses, and Micro vs. Macro Labor Supply Elasticities: Evidence from Danish Tax Records," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(2), pages 749-804.
    6. 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.
    7. Jarkko Harju & Tuomas Kosonen, 2012. "The Impact of Tax Incentives on the Economic Activity of Entrepreneurs," Working Papers 1220, Oxford University Centre for Business Taxation.
    8. Blomquist, Sören & Selin, Håkan, 2010. "Hourly wage rate and taxable labor income responsiveness to changes in marginal tax rates," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(11-12), pages 878-889, December.
    9. Bastani, Spencer & Selin, Håkan, 2014. "Bunching and non-bunching at kink points of the Swedish tax schedule," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 109(C), pages 36-49.
    10. 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.
    11. 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, June.
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    14. Harju, Jarkko & Matikka, Tuomas, 2013. "Entrepreneurs and income-shifting: Empirical evidence from a Finnish tax reform," Working Papers 43, VATT Institute for Economic Research.
    15. 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, March.
    16. Michael P. Devereux & Li Liu & Simon Loretz, 2014. "The Elasticity of Corporate Taxable Income: New Evidence from UK Tax Records," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 6(2), pages 19-53, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Alstadsæter, Annette & Jacob, Martin & Michaely, Roni, 2017. "Do dividend taxes affect corporate investment?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 151(C), pages 74-83.
    2. 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).
    3. Matikka, Tuomas, 2014. "Taxable Income Elasticity and the Anatomy of Behavioral Response: Evidence from Finland," Working Papers 55, VATT Institute for Economic Research.
    4. repec:eee:pubeco:v:151:y:2017:i:c:p:41-55 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. 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.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Personal income taxation; Elasticity of taxable income; Business owners; Tax avoidance;

    JEL classification:

    • H24 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Personal Income and Other Nonbusiness Taxes and Subsidies
    • H25 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Business Taxes and Subsidies
    • H32 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Firm

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