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Politically feasible reforms of non-linear tax systems


  • Bierbrauer, Felix
  • Boyer, Pierre


We present a conceptual framework for the analysis of politically feasible tax reforms. First, we prove a median voter theorem for monotonic reforms of non-linear tax systems. This yields a characterization of reforms that are preferred by a majority of individuals over the status quo and hence politically feasible. Second, we show that every Pareto-efficient tax system is such that moving towards lower tax rates for below-median incomes and towards higher rates for above median incomes is politically feasible. Third, we develop a method for diagnosing whether a given tax system admits reforms that are politically feasible and/or welfare-improving.

Suggested Citation

  • Bierbrauer, Felix & Boyer, Pierre, 2018. "Politically feasible reforms of non-linear tax systems," CEPR Discussion Papers 13059, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:13059

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Brett, Craig & Weymark, John A., 2016. "Voting over selfishly optimal nonlinear income tax schedules with a minimum-utility constraint," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 67(C), pages 18-31.
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    5. Bargain, Olivier & Dolls, Mathias & Neumann, Dirk & Peichl, Andreas & Siegloch, Sebastian, 2011. "Tax-benefit systems in Europe and the US: between equity and efficiency," EUROMOD Working Papers EM2/11, EUROMOD at the Institute for Social and Economic Research.
    6. Mikhail Golosov & Aleh Tsyvinski & Nicolas Werquin, 2014. "A Variational Approach to the Analysis of Tax Systems," NBER Working Papers 20780, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Harms, Philipp & Landwehr, Claudia, 2020. "Is money where the fun ends? Material interests and individuals’ preference for direct democracy," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 61(C).
    2. Laurence Jacquet & Etienne Lehmann, 2017. "Optimal income taxation with composition effects," TEPP Working Paper 2017-04, TEPP.
    3. Stefan Steinerberger & Aleh Tsyvinski, 2019. "Tax Mechanisms and Gradient Flows," NBER Working Papers 25821, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Blesse, Sebastian & Buhlmann, Florian & Doerrenberg, Philipp, 2019. "Do people really want a simple tax system? Evidence on preferences towards income tax simplification," ZEW Discussion Papers 19-058, ZEW - Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research.
    5. Felix Bierbrauer & Aleh Tsyvinski & Nicolas WERQUIN, 2019. "Taxes and Turnout," 2019 Meeting Papers 377, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    6. Anesi, Vincent & Bowen, T. Renee, 2018. "Policy Experimentation, Redistribution and Voting Rules," CEPR Discussion Papers 12797, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    7. Craig Brett & John A. Weymark, 2020. "Majority rule and selfishly optimal nonlinear income tax schedules with discrete skill levels," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 54(2), pages 337-362, March.
    8. Felix Bierbrauer & Aleh Tsyvinski & Nicolas D. Werquin, 2017. "Taxes and Turnout," NBER Working Papers 24123, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Chirvi, Malte & Schneider, Cornelius, 2019. "Stated preferences for capital taxation - tax design, misinformation and the role of partisanship," arqus Discussion Papers in Quantitative Tax Research 242, arqus - Arbeitskreis Quantitative Steuerlehre.
    10. Stefan Steinerberger & Aleh Tsyvinski, 2019. "Tax Mechanisms and Gradient Flows," Papers 1904.13276,

    More about this item


    Non-linear income taxation; optimal taxation; political economy; Tax Reforms;

    JEL classification:

    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation

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