IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Optimal Taxation of Top Labor Incomes: A Tale of Three Elasticities

  • Piketty, Thomas
  • Saez, Emmanuel
  • Stantcheva, Stefanie

This paper analyzes the problem of optimal taxation of top labour incomes. We develop a model where top incomes respond to marginal tax rates through three channels: (1) the standard supply-side channel through reduced economic activity, (2) the tax avoidance channel, (3) the compensation bargaining channel through efforts in influencing own pay setting. We derive the optimal top tax rate formula as a function of the three elasticities corresponding to those three channels of responses. The first elasticity (supply side) is the sole real factor limiting optimal top tax rates. The optimal tax system should be designed to minimize the second elasticity (avoidance) through tax enforcement and tax neutrality across income forms, in which case the second elasticity becomes irrelevant. The optimal top tax rate increases with the third elasticity (bargaining) as bargaining efforts are zero-sum in aggregate. We then analyze top income and top tax rate data in 18 OECD countries. There is a strong correlation between cuts in top tax rates and increases in top 1% income shares since 1975, implying that the overall elasticity is large. But top income share increases have not translated into higher economic growth, consistent with the zero-sum bargaining model. This suggests that the first elasticity is modest in size and that the overall effect comes mostly from the third elasticity. Consequently, socially optimal top tax rates might possibly be much higher than what is commonly assumed.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL: http://www.cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=8675
Download Restriction: CEPR Discussion Papers are free to download for our researchers, subscribers and members. If you fall into one of these categories but have trouble downloading our papers, please contact us at subscribers@cepr.org

As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 8675.

as
in new window

Length:
Date of creation: Nov 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:8675
Contact details of provider: Postal:
Centre for Economic Policy Research, 77 Bastwick Street, London EC1V 3PZ.

Phone: 44 - 20 - 7183 8801
Fax: 44 - 20 - 7183 8820

Order Information: Email:


References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Mathias Hungerbühler & Etienne Lehmann & Alexis Parmentier & Bruno Van Der Linden, 2006. "Optimal Redistributive Taxation in a Search Equilibrium Model," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 73(3), pages 743-767.
  2. Yermack, David, 1997. " Good Timing: CEO Stock Option Awards and Company News Announcements," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 52(2), pages 449-76, June.
  3. Brian J. Hall & Kevin J. Murphy, 2003. "The Trouble with Stock Options," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 17(3), pages 49-70, Summer.
  4. Emmanuel Saez, 2002. "Direct or Indirect Tax Instruments for Redistribution: Short-run versus Long-run," NBER Working Papers 8833, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Feldstein, Martin, 1995. "Effect of Marginal Tax Rates on Taxable Income: A Panel Study of the 1986 Tax Reform Act," Scholarly Articles 2766676, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  6. Yermack, David, 2006. "Flights of fancy: Corporate jets, CEO perquisites, and inferior shareholder returns," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 80(1), pages 211-242, April.
  7. Austan Goolsbee, 2000. "What Happens When You Tax the Rich? Evidence from Executive Compensation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(2), pages 352-378, April.
  8. Martin Feldstein, 1993. "The Effect of Marginal Tax Rates on Taxable Income: A Panel Study of the1986 Tax Reform Act," NBER Working Papers 4496, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Casey Rothschild & Florian Scheuer, 2014. "Optimal Taxation with Rent-Seeking," CESifo Working Paper Series 5071, CESifo Group Munich.
  10. Randall A. Heron & Erik Lie, 2009. "What Fraction of Stock Option Grants to Top Executives Have Been Backdated or Manipulated?," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 55(4), pages 513-525, April.
  11. Anthony Atkinson & Thomas Piketty & Emmanuel Saez, 2011. "Top Incomes in the Long Run of History," Post-Print halshs-00754557, HAL.
  12. Heron, Randall A. & Lie, Erik, 2007. "Does backdating explain the stock price pattern around executive stock option grants?," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 83(2), pages 271-295, February.
  13. Carola Frydman & Raven E. Saks, 2008. "Executive Compensation: A New View from a Long-Term Perspective, 1936-2005," NBER Working Papers 14145, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Emmanuel Saez, 2001. "Using Elasticities to Derive Optimal Income Tax Rates," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 68(1), pages 205-229.
  15. Carola Frydman & Dirk Jenter, 2010. "CEO Compensation," NBER Working Papers 16585, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Thomas Aronsson & Tomas Sjögren, 2004. "Is the Optimal Labor Income Tax Progressive in a Unionized Economy?," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 106(4), pages 661-675, December.
  17. Xavier Gabaix & Augustin Landier, 2008. "Why has CEO Pay Increased So Much?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 123(1), pages 49-100.
  18. Casey Rothschild & Florian Scheuer, 2013. "Redistributive Taxation in the Roy Model," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 128(2), pages 623-668.
  19. Rosen, Sherwin, 1981. "The Economics of Superstars," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(5), pages 845-58, December.
  20. Diamond, Peter A, 1998. "Optimal Income Taxation: An Example with a U-Shaped Pattern of Optimal Marginal Tax Rates," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(1), pages 83-95, March.
  21. Henrik Kleven & Camille Landais & Emmanuel Saez, 2010. "Taxation and International Migration of Superstars: Evidence from the European Football Market," NBER Working Papers 16545, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  22. A B Atkinson & Andrew Leigh, 2010. "The Distribution of Top Incomes in Five Anglo-Saxon Countries over the Twentieth Century," CEPR Discussion Papers 640, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
  23. Kopczuk, Wojciech, 2005. "Tax bases, tax rates and the elasticity of reported income," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(11-12), pages 2093-2119, December.
  24. Atkinson, A. B. & Piketty, Thomas (ed.), 2010. "Top Incomes: A Global Perspective," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199286898, May.
  25. Anthony Atkinson & Thomas Piketty, 2010. "Top Incomes : A Global Perspective," Post-Print halshs-00754875, HAL.
  26. Chiaki Moriguchi & Emmanuel Saez, 2008. "The Evolution of Income Concentration in Japan, 1886-2005: Evidence from Income Tax Statistics," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 90(4), pages 713-734, November.
  27. Sorensen, Peter Birch, 1999. "Optimal tax progressivity in imperfect labour markets," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(3), pages 435-452, September.
  28. Stiglitz, Joseph E., 1982. "Self-selection and Pareto efficient taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(2), pages 213-240, March.
  29. Lindsey, Lawrence B., 1987. "Individual taxpayer response to tax cuts: 1982-1984 : With implications for the revenue maximizing tax rate," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 33(2), pages 173-206, July.
  30. Brian J. Hall & Kevin J. Murphy, 2003. "The Trouble with Stock Options," NBER Working Papers 9784, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  31. Garvey, Gerald T. & Milbourn, Todd T., 2006. "Asymmetric benchmarking in compensation: Executives are rewarded for good luck but not penalized for bad," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(1), pages 197-225, October.
  32. Joel Slemrod & Wojciech Kopczuk, 2000. "The Optimal Elasticity of Taxable Income," NBER Working Papers 7922, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  33. Emmanuel Saez, 2002. "Optimal Income Transfer Programs: Intensive versus Extensive Labor Supply Responses," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(3), pages 1039-1073.
  34. Alan J. Auerbach, 1988. "Capital Gains Taxation in the United States: Realizations, Revenue, and Rhetoric," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 19(2), pages 595-638.
  35. Roine, Jesper & Vlachos, Jonas & Waldenström, Daniel, 2009. "The long-run determinants of inequality: What can we learn from top income data?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(7-8), pages 974-988, August.
  36. Moen, Espen R, 1997. "Competitive Search Equilibrium," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(2), pages 385-411, April.
  37. Henrik Jacobsen Kleven & Claus Thustrup Kreiner & Emmanuel Saez, 2009. "Why Can Modern Governments Tax So Much? An Agency Model of Firms as Fiscal Intermediaries," NBER Working Papers 15218, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  38. Christopher A. Pissarides, 2000. "Equilibrium Unemployment Theory, 2nd Edition," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262161877, June.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:8675. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ()

The email address of this maintainer does not seem to be valid anymore. Please ask to update the entry or send us the correct email address

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.