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Optimal Marginal Tax Rates for Low Incomes: Positive, Negative, or Zero?

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  • Homburg, Stefan

Abstract

Previous studies have shown that the optimal marginal tax rate at the bottom of the income distribution may be positive, negative, or even zero. This paper reexamines this problem in a unified framework and tries to evaluate the arguments. It turns out that the case for positive marginal tax rates is quite strong, whereas negative marginal tax rates seem to be based on a misconception.

Suggested Citation

  • Homburg, Stefan, 2002. "Optimal Marginal Tax Rates for Low Incomes: Positive, Negative, or Zero?," Hannover Economic Papers (HEP) dp-255, Leibniz Universität Hannover, Wirtschaftswissenschaftliche Fakultät.
  • Handle: RePEc:han:dpaper:dp-255
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Browning, Edgar K., 1995. "Effects of the Earned Income Tax Credit on Income and Welfare," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 48(1), pages 23-43, March.
    2. Kanbur, Ravi & Tuomala, Matti, 1994. " Inherent Inequality and the Optimal Graduation of Marginal Tax Rates," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 96(2), pages 275-282.
    3. 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.
    4. Stefan Homburg, 2001. "The Optimal Income Tax: Restatement and Extensions," FinanzArchiv: Public Finance Analysis, Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 58(4), pages 363-395, November.
    5. V. Joseph Hotz, 2003. "The Earned Income Tax Credit," NBER Chapters,in: Means-Tested Transfer Programs in the United States, pages 141-198 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Diamond, P., 1980. "Income taxation with fixed hours of work," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(1), pages 101-110, February.
    7. Jesus Seade, 1982. "On the Sign of the Optimum Marginal Income Tax," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 49(4), pages 637-643.
    8. Guesnerie, Roger & Seade, Jesus, 1982. "Nonlinear pricing in a finite economy," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(2), pages 157-179, March.
    9. Stiglitz, Joseph E., 1982. "Self-selection and Pareto efficient taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(2), pages 213-240, March.
    10. J. A. Mirrlees, 1971. "An Exploration in the Theory of Optimum Income Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 38(2), pages 175-208.
    11. Browning, Edgar K., 1995. "Effects of the Earned Income Tax Credit on Income and Welfare," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 48(1), pages 23-43, March.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Kessing, Sebastian G. & Konrad, Kai A., 2006. "Union strategy and optimal direct taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(1-2), pages 393-402, January.
    2. Kessing, Sebastian G. & Konrad, Kai A., 2005. "Union Strategy and Optimal Income Taxation," IZA Discussion Papers 1545, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Johann K. Brunner, 2003. "Optimale direkte und indirekte Steuern bei unterschiedlicher Anfangsausstattung," Economics working papers 2003-10, Department of Economics, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria.
    4. Homburg Stefan & Lohse Tim, 2005. "Optimal Taxes and Transfers under Partial Information," Journal of Economics and Statistics (Jahrbuecher fuer Nationaloekonomie und Statistik), De Gruyter, vol. 225(6), pages 622-629, December.
    5. Choné, Philippe & Laroque, Guy, 2011. "Optimal taxation in the extensive model," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 146(2), pages 425-453, March.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Optimal income taxation; contract theory; incentives; welfare;

    JEL classification:

    • H2 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue
    • D3 - Microeconomics - - Distribution

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