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On the Optimality of Optimal Income Taxation

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  • Felix Bierbrauer

Abstract

The Mirrleesian model of income taxation restricts attention to simple allocation mechanism with no strategic interdependence, i.e., the optimal labor supply of any one individual does not depend on the labor supply of others. It has been argued by Piketty (1993) that this restriction is substantial because more sophisticated mechanisms can reach first-best allocations that are out of reach with simple mechanisms. In this paper, we assess the validity of Piketty’s critique in an independent private values model. As a main result, we show that the optimal sophisticated mechanism is a simple mechanism, or, equivalently, a Mirrleesian income tax system.

Suggested Citation

  • Felix Bierbrauer, 2010. "On the Optimality of Optimal Income Taxation," CESifo Working Paper Series 3163, CESifo Group Munich.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_3163
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    File URL: http://www.cesifo-group.de/DocDL/cesifo1_wp3163.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Hellwig, Martin F., 2007. "A contribution to the theory of optimal utilitarian income taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, pages 1449-1477.
    2. Pierre C. Boyer & Felix J. Bierbrauer, 2014. "The Pareto-Frontier in a Simple Mirrleesian Model of Income Taxation," Annals of Economics and Statistics, GENES, pages 185-206.
    3. Kocherlakota, Narayana & Phelan, Christopher, 2009. "On the robustness of laissez-faire," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 144(6), pages 2372-2387, November.
    4. Narayana R. Kocherlakota, 2005. "Zero Expected Wealth Taxes: A Mirrlees Approach to Dynamic Optimal Taxation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 73(5), pages 1587-1621, September.
    5. Mikhail Golosov & Narayana Kocherlakota & Aleh Tsyvinski, 2003. "Optimal Indirect and Capital Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, pages 569-587.
    6. Hellwig, Martin F., 2007. "The undesirability of randomized income taxation under decreasing risk aversion," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(3-4), pages 791-816, April.
    7. Dirk Bergemann & Stephen Morris, 2005. "Robust Mechanism Design," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 73(6), pages 1771-1813, November.
    8. Ledyard, John O., 1978. "Incentive compatibility and incomplete information," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, pages 171-189.
    9. Peter J. Hammond, 1979. "Straightforward Individual Incentive Compatibility in Large Economies," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 46(2), pages 263-282.
    10. Hamilton, Jonathan & Slutsky, Steven, 2007. "Optimal nonlinear income taxation with a finite population," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 132(1), pages 548-556, January.
    11. Piketty Thomas, 1993. "Implementation of First-Best Allocations via Generalized Tax Schedules," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 61(1), pages 23-41, October.
    12. Egbert Dierker & Hans Haller, 1990. "Tax systems and direct mechanisms in large finite economies," Journal of Economics, Springer, vol. 52(2), pages 99-116, June.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    optimal income taxation; mechanism design;

    JEL classification:

    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • D86 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Economics of Contract Law
    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation

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