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The choice of the personal income tax base

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  • Gordon, Roger H.
  • Kopczuk, Wojciech

Abstract

Starting with Mirrlees (1971) and Vickrey (1945), the optimal tax literature has studied the design of a personal income tax. The ideal would be to tax earnings ability. Earnings ability is unobservable for tax purposes, however, and past papers have focused instead on designing a tax on labor income. Existing tax bases, though, depend on a broader range of information about each individual. In principle, this supplementary information can help in designing a tax that has more attractive distributional properties, by more closely approximating an ability tax. The objective of this paper is to lay out theoretically and estimate empirically how to make best use of available information about each individual in addition to earnings, when constructing a tax base that is most attractive on distributional grounds. To begin with, we find that the current tax base does slightly less well than the far simpler tax base equal just to a couple's joint earnings. In accordance with current practice, we find that the optimal tax base should include capital income, at least to some degree. In contrast to current practice, property tax payments and mortgage interest payments should not be deductible, since these deductions are costly on equity and presumably on efficiency grounds. We also find that joint filing and separate filing by a couple have similar consequences on equity grounds.

Suggested Citation

  • Gordon, Roger H. & Kopczuk, Wojciech, 2011. "The choice of the personal income tax base," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 58197, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:58197
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    Cited by:

    1. X. Ruiz del Portal, 2017. "Optimal mixed taxation, public goods and the problem of high-skilled emigration," Journal of Economics, Springer, vol. 122(2), pages 97-119, October.
    2. Jacobs, Bas & Schindler, Dirk, 2012. "On the desirability of taxing capital income in optimal social insurance," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(9-10), pages 853-868.
    3. Wojciech Kopczuk, 2012. "Taxation of Intergenerational Transfers and Wealth," NBER Working Papers 18584, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Jonathan Gruber & Amalie Jensen & Henrik Kleven, 2017. "Do People Respond to the Mortage Interest Deduction? Quasi-Experimental Evidence from Denmark," NBER Working Papers 23600, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Golosov, Mikhail & Troshkin, Maxim & Tsyvinski, Aleh & Weinzierl, Matthew, 2013. "Preference heterogeneity and optimal capital income taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 97(C), pages 160-175.
    6. Carmen Comaniciu, 2015. "Some coordinates concerning taxation in the EU candidate countries," Annals of the University of Petrosani, Economics, University of Petrosani, Romania, vol. 15(1), pages 91-100.
    7. Carina Neisser, 2017. "The elasticity of taxable income: A meta-regression analysis," Working Papers 2017/10, Institut d'Economia de Barcelona (IEB).
    8. Spencer Bastani & Daniel Waldenström, 2020. "How Should Capital Be Taxed?," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 34(4), pages 812-846, September.
    9. Jukka Pirttilä & Hakan Selin, 2011. "Tax Policy and Employment: How Does the Swedish System Fare?," CESifo Working Paper Series 3355, CESifo.
    10. Bastani, Spencer & Waldenström, Daniel, 2018. "How Should Capital Be Taxed? Theory and Evidence from Sweden," IZA Discussion Papers 11475, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    11. Buettner, Thiess & Erbe, Katharina & Grimm, Veronika, 2019. "Tax planning of married couples and intra-household income inequality," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 179(C).
    12. Bas Jacobs, 2013. "From Optimal Tax Theory to Applied Tax Policy," FinanzArchiv: Public Finance Analysis, Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 69(3), pages 338-389, September.
    13. Jukka Pirttilä & Ilpo Suoniemi, 2014. "Public Provision, Commodity Demand, and Hours of Work: An Empirical Analysis," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 116(4), pages 1044-1067, October.
    14. Spencer Bastani & Daniel Waldenström, 2018. "How should capital be taxed? The Swedish experience," World Inequality Lab Working Papers hal-02878153, HAL.
    15. Peter Diamond & Johannes Spinnewijn, 2011. "Capital Income Taxes with Heterogeneous Discount Rates," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 3(4), pages 52-76, November.
    16. S. N. Alpysbaeva & G. V. Stroeva & Sh. Zh. Shuneev & A. A. Bakdolotov, 2020. "Transition to the Progressive Scale of Individual Income Tax in Kazakhstan: Opportunities and Limitations," Studies on Russian Economic Development, Springer, vol. 31(1), pages 120-127, January.
    17. Saez, Emmanuel & Stantcheva, Stefanie, 2018. "A simpler theory of optimal capital taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 162(C), pages 120-142.
    18. Xavier Ruiz del Portal, 2020. "Two reasons for not using commodity taxation in the presence of an optimal income tax," Hacienda Pública Española / Review of Public Economics, IEF, vol. 232(1), pages 9-28, March.
    19. Jacobs, Bas & Boadway, Robin, 2014. "Optimal linear commodity taxation under optimal non-linear income taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 117(C), pages 201-210.
    20. Paolo Caro, 2020. "Decomposing Personal Income Tax Redistribution with Application to Italy," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 18(1), pages 113-129, March.
    21. Paolo Di Caro, 2017. "Analisi distributiva dell’IRPEF utilizzando i microdati di fonte fiscale," ECONOMIA PUBBLICA, FrancoAngeli Editore, vol. 2017(1), pages 35-59.
    22. Raeni & Astika Sari, 2016. "What are the Challenges in Designing An Effective Personal Income Tax System?," Economics and Finance in Indonesia, Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Indonesia, vol. 62, pages 59-66, April.
    23. 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.

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    JEL classification:

    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics
    • F3 - International Economics - - International Finance
    • G3 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance

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