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Top Incomes and Top Taxes in Germany

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  • Stefan Bach
  • Giacomo Corneo
  • Viktor Steiner

Abstract

We analyze the distribution and taxation of top incomes in Germany during the 1990s on the basis of individual tax returns data. We derive a measure of economic income from taxable gross income as reported in the tax returns. Thanks to complete sampling, we can deliver a very precise description of very high incomes, in terms of both distribution and composition by source. We also provide a measure of the effective average rate of taxation for various income groups. Our main findings are as follows: (i) incomes are highly concentrated in Germany, more than commonly thought; (ii) the German economic elite relies much less than elites in France or the US upon income from wages and salaries; (iii) income taxes are highly concentrated in Germany, more than commonly thought; (iv) although effective tax rates are significantly lower than statutory ones, the income tax is effectively progressive; (v) income taxation substantially reduces income inequality in Germany.

Suggested Citation

  • Stefan Bach & Giacomo Corneo & Viktor Steiner, 2006. "Top Incomes and Top Taxes in Germany," CESifo Working Paper Series 1641, CESifo.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_1641
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Fabien Dell, 2005. "Top Incomes in Germany and Switzerland Over the Twentieth Century," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 3(2-3), pages 412-421, 04/05.
    2. Slemrod,Joel, 1997. "Tax Progressivity and Income Inequality," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521587761.
    3. 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.
    4. Giacomo Corneo, 2005. "The Rise and Likely Fall of the German Income Tax, 1958–2005," CESifo Economic Studies, CESifo, vol. 51(1), pages 159-186.
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    Cited by:

    1. Fossen, Frank M. & Steiner, Viktor, 2006. "Income Taxes and Entrepreneurial Choice: Empirical Evidence from Germany," IZA Discussion Papers 2164, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    2. Horn-Chern Lin & Tao Zeng, 2010. "The distributional impact of income tax in Canada and China: 1997-2005," Journal of Chinese Economic and Foreign Trade Studies, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 3(2), pages 132-145, June.
    3. Roine, Jesper & Vlachos, Jonas & Waldenström, Daniel, 2009. "The long-run determinants of inequality: What can we learn from top income data?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(7-8), pages 974-988, August.
    4. Jacob, Martin & Niemann, Rainer & Weiss, Martin, 2008. "The rich demystified: A reply to Bach, Corneo, and Steiner (2008)," arqus Discussion Papers in Quantitative Tax Research 58, arqus - Arbeitskreis Quantitative Steuerlehre.
    5. Roine, Jesper & Vlachos, Jonas & Waldenström, Daniel, 2007. "What Determines Top Income Shares? Evidence from the Twentieth Century," Research Papers in Economics 2007:17, Stockholm University, Department of Economics.
    6. Stefan Bach & Giacomo Corneo & Viktor Steiner, 2007. "From Bottom to Top: The Entire Distribution of Market Income in Germany, 1992-2001," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 51, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
    7. Stefan Bach & Giacomo Corneo & Viktor Steiner, 2008. "Effective Taxation of Top Incomes in Germany, 1992 - 2002," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 767, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
    8. Alexandre Baclet & Fabien Dell & Katharina Wrohlich, 2005. "Income Taxation and Household Size: Would French Family Splitting Make German Families Better Off ?," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 542, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
    9. Enrico Rubolino & Daniel Waldenström, 2019. "Trends and gradients in top tax elasticities: cross-country evidence, 1900–2014," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 26(3), pages 457-485, June.
    10. Frank Fossen & Viktor Steiner, 2009. "Income taxes and entrepreneurial choice: empirical evidence from two German natural experiments," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 36(3), pages 487-513, June.
    11. Timm Bönke & Giacomo Corneo, 2006. "Was hätte man sonst machen können? Alternativszenarien zur rot-grünen Einkommensteuerreform," Schmollers Jahrbuch : Journal of Applied Social Science Studies / Zeitschrift für Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaften, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin, vol. 126(4), pages 489-519.
    12. Heijdra, Ben J. & Ligthart, Jenny E., 2010. "The Transitional Dynamics Of Fiscal Policy In Small Open Economies," Macroeconomic Dynamics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 14(1), pages 1-28, February.
    13. repec:dau:papers:123456789/179 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Corneo, Giacomo, 2008. "Charity and redistributive taxation in a unionized economy," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(5), pages 831-843, October.
    15. Fritzsche, Bernd & Haisken-DeNew, John & Kambeck, Rainer & Siemers, Lars-H. R. & Bergs, Christian & Fuest, Clemens & Peichl, Andreas & Schaefer, Thilo & Thöne, Michael, 2007. "Der Zusammenhang zwischen Steuerlast- und Einkommensverteilung: Forschungsprojekt für das Bundesministerium für Arbeit und Soziales. Endbericht - Dezember 2007," RWI Projektberichte, RWI - Leibniz-Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, number 70874, October.
    16. Peter Haan, 2007. "Intertemporal Labor Supply Effects of Tax Reforms," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 669, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
    17. Dirk-Hinnerk Fischer & Simona Ferraro, 2019. "A proposal for a simple average-based progressive taxation system," Public Sector Economics, Institute of Public Finance, vol. 43(2), pages 141-165.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    income distribution; personal income tax; taxing the rich;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • H24 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Personal Income and Other Nonbusiness Taxes and Subsidies
    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • H26 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Tax Evasion and Avoidance

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