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How Should Commodities be Taxed? A Counterargument to the Recommendation in the Mirrlees Review

Author

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  • Spencer Bastani
  • Sören Blomquist
  • Jukka Pirttilä

Abstract

The Mirrlees Review recommends that commodity taxation should in general be uniform, but with some goods consumed in conjunction with labour supply (such as child care) left untaxed. This paper examines the validity of this claim in an optimal income tax framework. Contrary to the recommendation of the Review, our theoretical results imply that even if all goods other than the good needed for working are separable from leisure, the optimal tax on these goods should not be uniform. Instead, goods with larger expenditure elasticities should be discouraged relatively more by the tax system. If the government fully subsidises the cost of the good needed for working, then commodity taxation is uniform under the standard separability assumption. Our results imply that the optimal commodity tax system is dependent on the expenditure side of the government. A calibration exercise presented in the paper suggests that these results can be quantitatively important.

Suggested Citation

  • Spencer Bastani & Sören Blomquist & Jukka Pirttilä, 2013. "How Should Commodities be Taxed? A Counterargument to the Recommendation in the Mirrlees Review," CESifo Working Paper Series 4240, CESifo Group Munich.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_4240
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Mirrlees, J. A., 1976. "Optimal tax theory : A synthesis," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(4), pages 327-358, November.
    2. Saez, Emmanuel, 2002. "The desirability of commodity taxation under non-linear income taxation and heterogeneous tastes," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, pages 217-230.
    3. Raj Chetty & Adam Guren & Day Manoli & Andrea Weber, 2013. "Does Indivisible Labor Explain the Difference between Micro and Macro Elasticities? A Meta-Analysis of Extensive Margin Elasticities," NBER Macroeconomics Annual, University of Chicago Press, vol. 27(1), pages 1-56.
    4. Bastani, Spencer & Blomquist, Sören & Micheletto, Luca, 2010. "Public Provision of Private Goods, Tagging and Optimal Income Taxation with Heterogeneity in Needs," Working Paper Series, Center for Fiscal Studies 2010:14, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.
    5. Eric Bonsang, 2007. "How do middle-aged children allocate time and money transfers to their older parents in Europe?," Empirica, Springer;Austrian Institute for Economic Research;Austrian Economic Association, vol. 34(2), pages 171-188, April.
    6. Browning, Martin & Meghir, Costas, 1991. "The Effects of Male and Female Labor Supply on Commodity Demands," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 59(4), pages 925-951, July.
    7. Richard Blundell & Andrew Shephard, 2012. "Employment, Hours of Work and the Optimal Taxation of Low-Income Families," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 79(2), pages 481-510.
    8. Sören Blomquist & Vidar Christiansen & Luca Micheletto, 2010. "Public Provision of Private Goods and Nondistortionary Marginal Tax Rates," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 2(2), pages 1-27, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:kap:jeczfn:v:122:y:2017:i:2:d:10.1007_s00712-017-0536-6 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Odd E. Nygård & John T. Revesz, 2015. "Optimal indirect taxation and the uniformity debate: A review of theoretical results and empirical contributions," Discussion Papers 809, Statistics Norway, Research Department.
    3. John T. Revesz, 2014. "A computational model of optimal commodity taxation," Public Finance Research Papers 4, Istituto di Economia e Finanza, DIGEF, Sapienza University of Rome.
    4. Odd E. Nygard & John T. Revesz, 2016. "A literature review on optimal indirect taxation and the uniformity debate," Hacienda Pública Española, IEF, vol. 218(3), pages 107-140, September.
    5. Spencer Bastani & Sören Blomquist & Luca Micheletto, 2017. "Child Care Subsidies, Quality, and Optimal Income Taxation," CESifo Working Paper Series 6533, CESifo Group Munich.
    6. John T. Revesz, 2014. "A Numerical Model of Optimal Differentiated Indirect Taxation," Hacienda Pública Española, IEF, vol. 211(4), pages 9-66, December.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    income taxation; commodity taxation; public provision; separability;

    JEL classification:

    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation
    • H42 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Publicly Provided Private Goods

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