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Fair and Efficient Taxation under Partial Control: Theory and Evidence

  • Erwin Ooghe
  • Andreas Peichl

There is clear evidence that fairness plays a role in redistribution. Individuals want to compensate others for their misfortune, while they allow them to enjoy the fruits of their effort. This paper introduces fairness in a tax-benefit scheme that is based on several characteristics in order to study the design of optimal taxes where people have what we call ‘partial control’. For some characteristics like sex, age and inborn handicaps the degree of control is zero (i.e., these characteristic are exogenous tags fully defined by the individual’s type), while for other characteristics, think of education and family composition, the degree of control is positive, i.e. it can be changed by exerting effort. We derive the fair tax benefit formula as well as two testable predictions. We provide the first estimates of implicit tax rates for different characteristics in 26 European countries (using EU-SILC data) and the US (using CPS data) and find a robust tendency in all countries to compensate more for uncontrollable characteristics compared to the partially controllable ones. We then attempt to calculate which countries currently have fair tax systems. Only the Continental countries France and Luxembourg pass the fairness test, whereas the Baltic and Anglo-Saxon countries (including the US) perform worst. Our paper provides a new way to formalize the old intuition that, in a fair society, people should be allowed to benefit more from their own efforts than from exogenous characteristics like their genetic endowment.

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Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 3518.

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Date of creation: 2011
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Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_3518
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