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Effective Taxation of Top Incomes in Germany, 1992-2002


  • Stefan Bach
  • Giacomo Corneo
  • Viktor Steiner


We analyze the taxation of top personal incomes in Germany on the basis of an integrated data file of individual tax returns and a general household survey for the years 1992 - 2002. The unique feature of this integrated data set is that it includes all taxpayers in the top percentile of the gross income distribution. We show that despite substantial tax base erosion and significant reductions of top statutory marginal tax rates, German income taxation has remained effectively progressive. The distribution of the tax burden is highly concentrated, and the effective average income tax rate of the German economic elite – the top 0.001 quantile of the gross income distribution – is about 34 percent, which is well below the legislated tax rate.

Suggested Citation

  • Stefan Bach & Giacomo Corneo & Viktor Steiner, 2008. "Effective Taxation of Top Incomes in Germany, 1992-2002," CESifo Working Paper Series 2233, CESifo Group Munich.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_2233

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. 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.
    2. Wagstaff, Adam & van Doorslaer, Eddy & van der Burg, Hattem & Calonge, Samuel & Christiansen, Terkel & Citoni, Guido & Gerdtham, Ulf-G. & Gerfin, Michael & Gross, Lorna & Hakinnen, Unto, 1999. "Redistributive effect, progressivity and differential tax treatment: Personal income taxes in twelve OECD countries," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 72(1), pages 73-98, April.
    3. Stefan Bach & Giacomo Corneo & Viktor Steiner, 2005. "Top Incomes and Top Taxes in Germany," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 532, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
    4. Adam Wagstaff & Eddy van Doorslaer, 2001. "What Makes the Personal Income Tax Progressive? A Comparative Analysis for Fifteen OECD Countries," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 8(3), pages 299-316, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Michal Myck & Richard Ochmann & Salmai Qari, 2008. "Dynamics of Earnings and Hourly Wages in Germany," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 139, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
    2. Anthony B. Atkinson & Thomas Piketty & Emmanuel Saez, 2011. "Top Incomes in the Long Run of History," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 49(1), pages 3-71, March.
    3. Martin Jacob & Rainer Niemann & Martin Weiss, 2008. "The Rich Demystified - A Reply to Bach, Corneo, and Steiner (2008)," CESifo Working Paper Series 2478, CESifo Group Munich.
    4. Nadja Dwenger & Viktor Steiner, 2014. "Financial leverage and corporate taxation: evidence from German corporate tax return data," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 21(1), pages 1-28, February.
    5. Flamino Viola & Margarida Saraiva, 2015. "Flat Tax, the solution?," CEFAGE-UE Working Papers 2015_07, University of Evora, CEFAGE-UE (Portugal).

    More about this item


    personal income tax; taxing the rich; effective progressivity;

    JEL classification:

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


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