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Wie progressiv ist Deutschland?: Das Steuer- und Transfersystem im europäischen Vergleich


  • Andreas Peichl
  • Thilo Schaefer


When comparing tax benefit systems across Europe, Germany is usually regarded as a country with a high level of taxes and contributions which is often seen as a main challenge for the economic performance of the welfare state in terms of growth and unemployment. Especially the progressive structure of the German income tax is subject to various criticisms in the ongoing policy debate in Germany. In this paper, we compare the progressivity and redistribution induced by the tax benefit systems in the EU-15 countries. In contrast to previous studies, we do not focus only on the income tax system but additionally consider social insurance contributions and cash benefits for a complete analysis of the whole tax benefit system. Our analysis is based on EUROMOD, a static tax benefit microsimulation model for the EU-15 countries, which allows analysing the tax benefit systems in a common framework. We compute several measures of progressivity and redistribution for the whole tax benefit system as well as for the single components. We compare the values of these measures across countries to rank the countries according to their progressivity and level of redistribution. Our analysis shows that there is considerable variety with respect to progressivity and redistribution across the countries. We show that the German system as a whole employs only a medium level of redistribution, which contradicts to some extent the existing German literature. However, this effect can be decomposed into a highly progressive income tax system, a highly unequal pre-tax income distribution and regressive social insurance contributions as well as regressive transfers. Therefore, when thinking of reforming the highly progressive income tax system, one has to take into account the regressive effects of the other elements of the tax benefit system. Deutschland wird häufig ein im europäischen Vergleich überdurchschnittliches Abgabenniveau bescheinigt. Da dies als eine der Hauptursachen für vergleichsweise schwaches Wachstum und hohe Arbeitslosigkeit gilt, werden in der wirtschaftspolitischen Debatte vermehrt Reformen des progressiven Steuer- und Transfersystems gefordert. Im Zentrum unserer Untersuchung steht die Frage, welche Unterschiede die Steuer- und Transfersysteme in den europäischen Ländern hinsichtlich ihrer Progressivität aufweisen und welche Wirkungen auf die Verteilung der Einkommen darauf zurückzuführen sind. Die Analyse zeigt, dass Deutschland im europäischen Vergleich insgesamt eher im mittleren Bereich anzusiedeln ist. Gleichwohl kann der deutschen Einkommensteuer eine relativ hohe Umverteilungswirkung bescheinigt werden, die jedoch auf eine vergleichsweise hohe Ungleichheit der Markteinkommen zurückführen ist. Gleichzeitig geht von den stark regressiv wirkenden Sozialversicherungsbeiträgen eine relativ hohe Belastung aus.

Suggested Citation

  • Andreas Peichl & Thilo Schaefer, 2008. "Wie progressiv ist Deutschland?: Das Steuer- und Transfersystem im europäischen Vergleich," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 102, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
  • Handle: RePEc:diw:diwsop:diw_sp102

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Isabelle Joumard, 2003. "Tax systems in European Union countries," OECD Economic Studies, OECD Publishing, vol. 2002(1), pages 91-151.
    2. Sutherland, Holly, 2001. "EUROMOD: an integrated European benefit-tax model: final report," EUROMOD Working Papers EM9/01, EUROMOD at the Institute for Social and Economic Research.
    3. Wolfgang Meister, 2005. "Abgabenbelastung des Faktors Arbeit," ifo Schnelldienst, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 58(24), pages 06-17, December.
    4. Homburg, Stefan, 2010. "Allgemeine Steuerlehre," EconStor Books, ZBW - German National Library of Economics, number 92547.
    5. R. A. Musgrave & Tun Thin, 1948. "Income Tax Progression, 1929-48," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 56, pages 498-498.
    6. Suits, Daniel B, 1977. "Measurement of Tax Progressivity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(4), pages 747-752, September.
    7. Peichl, Andreas & Ochmann, Richard, 2006. "Measuring distributional effects of fiscal reforms," FiFo Discussion Papers - Finanzwissenschaftliche Diskussionsbeiträge 06-9, University of Cologne, FiFo Institute for Public Economics.
    8. Hans-Werner Sinn, 2002. "Die rote Laterne - Die Gründe für Deutschlands Wachstumsschwäche und die notwendigen Reformen," ifo Schnelldienst, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 55(23), pages 3-32, December.
    9. Adam Wagstaff & Eddy van Doorslaer, 2001. "What Makes the Personal Income Tax Progressive? A Comparative Analysis for Fifteen OECD Countries," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 8(3), pages 299-316, May.
    10. Clemens Fuest & Andreas Peichl & Thilo Schaefer, 2008. "Is a flat tax reform feasible in a grown-up democracy of Western Europe? A simulation study for Germany," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 15(5), pages 620-636, October.
    11. Plotnick, Robert, 1981. "A Measure of Horizontal Inequity," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 63(2), pages 283-288, May.
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    More about this item


    Progression; Umverteilung; Steuer- und Transfersystem; europäischer Vergleich;

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • H24 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Personal Income and Other Nonbusiness Taxes and Subsidies

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