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Optimal Income Taxation with Uncertain Earnings: A Synthesis

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  • Robin Boadway
  • Motohiro Sato

Abstract

We study optimal nonlinear income taxation when earnings can differ because of both ability and luck, so the income tax has both a redistributive role and an insurance role. A substantial literature on optimal redistribution in the absence of uncertainty has evolved since Mirrlees’ original contribution. The literature on the income tax as a social insurance device is more limited. It has largely assumed that households are ex ante identical so unequal earnings are due to uncertainty alone. We provide a general treatment of the optimal income tax under uncertainty when households differ in ability. We characterize optimal marginal tax rates and interpret them in terms of redistribution, insurance and incentive effects. The case of ex ante identical households and the no-risk case with heterogeneous abilities come out as special cases.

Suggested Citation

  • Robin Boadway & Motohiro Sato, 2011. "Optimal Income Taxation with Uncertain Earnings: A Synthesis," CESifo Working Paper Series 3654, CESifo Group Munich.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_3654
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    File URL: http://www.cesifo-group.de/DocDL/cesifo1_wp3654.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Boadway, Robin & Jacquet, Laurence, 2008. "Optimal marginal and average income taxation under maximin," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 143(1), pages 425-441, November.
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    4. Robin Boadway & Maurice Marchand & Pierre Pestieau & María del Mar Racionero, 2002. "Optimal Redistribution with Heterogeneous Preferences for Leisure," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 4(4), pages 475-498, October.
    5. Juan Carlos Conesa & Sagiri Kitao & Dirk Krueger, 2009. "Taxing Capital? Not a Bad Idea after All!," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(1), pages 25-48, March.
    6. Dirk Schindler & Hongyan Yang, 2010. "Catalysts for Social Insurance: Education Subsidies vs. Real Capital Taxation," CESifo Working Paper Series 3278, CESifo Group Munich.
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    Cited by:

    1. Bach, Stefan & Corneo, Giacomo & Steiner, Viktor, 2012. "Optimal top marginal tax rates under income splitting for couples," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 56(6), pages 1055-1069.
    2. Hsu, Minchung & Yang, C.C., 2013. "Optimal linear and two-bracket income taxes with idiosyncratic earnings risk," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 105(C), pages 58-71.
    3. Dirk Schindler & Hongyan Yang, 2015. "Catalysts for social insurance: education subsidies versus physical capital taxation," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 22(2), pages 274-310, April.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    optimal income taxation; wage risk;

    JEL classification:

    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation
    • H24 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Personal Income and Other Nonbusiness Taxes and Subsidies

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