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Tax Progressivity and Top Incomes: Evidence from Tax Reforms

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  • Rubolino, Enrico

    (Uppsala University)

  • Waldenström, Daniel

    (Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN))

Abstract

We study the link between tax progressivity and top income shares. Using variation from large-scale Western tax reforms in the 1980s and 1990s and the novel synthetic control method, we find large and lasting boosting impacts on top income shares from the progressivity reductions. Effects are largest in the very top groups while earners in the bottom half of the top decile were almost unaffected by the reforms. Cuts in top marginal tax rates account for most of this outcome whereas reduced overall progressivity contributed less. Searching for mechanisms, real income responses as measured by growth in aggregate GDP per capita, registered patents and tax revenues were unaffected by the reforms. By contrast, tax avoidance behavior related to the management of capital incomes in the very income top appears to lie behind the observed effects.

Suggested Citation

  • Rubolino, Enrico & Waldenström, Daniel, 2017. "Tax Progressivity and Top Incomes: Evidence from Tax Reforms," Working Paper Series 1161, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:iuiwop:1161
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    Cited by:

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    2. Advani, Arun & Koenig, Felix & Pessina, Lorenzo & Summers, Andy, 2020. "Importing Inequality: Immigration and the Top 1 Percent," IZA Discussion Papers 13731, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    3. Pierce O’Reilly, 2018. "Tax policies for inclusive growth in a changing world," OECD Taxation Working Papers 40, OECD Publishing.
    4. Roberto Iacono & Elisa Palagi, 2020. "Still the lands of equality? On the heterogeneity of individual factor income shares in the Nordics," LEM Papers Series 2020/13, Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy.
    5. Julia Tanndal & Daniel Waldenström, 2018. "Does Financial Deregulation Boost Top Incomes? Evidence from the Big Bang," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 85(338), pages 232-265, April.
    6. Suresh Nallareddy & Ethan Rouen & Juan Carlos Suárez Serrato, 2022. "Do Corporate Tax Cuts Increase Income Inequality?," Tax Policy and the Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 36(1), pages 35-91.
    7. Clemens Fuest & Klaus Gründler & Niklas Potrafke & Fabian Ruthardt, 2021. "Eine empirische Untersuchung von Steuerpolitiken nach Krisen," ifo Forschungsberichte, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, number 128, November.
    8. Bibek Adhikari, 2022. "A Guide to Using the Synthetic Control Method to Quantify the Effects of Shocks, Policies, and Shocking Policies," The American Economist, Sage Publications, vol. 67(1), pages 46-63, March.
    9. Torregrosa Hetland, Sara & Sabaté, Oriol, 2021. "Income Taxes and Redistribution in the Early Twentieth Century," Lund Papers in Economic History 224, Lund University, Department of Economic History, revised 05 Sep 2022.
    10. Iacono Roberto & Palagi Elisa, 2022. "Still the Lands of Equality? Heterogeneity of Income Composition in the Nordics, 1975–2016," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 22(2), pages 221-268, April.
    11. Enrico Rubolino & Daniel Waldenström, 2019. "Trends and gradients in top tax elasticities: cross-country evidence, 1900–2014," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 26(3), pages 457-485, June.
    12. Ando Michihito & Furuichi Masato & Kaneko Yoshihiro, 2021. "Does universal long-term care insurance boost female labor force participation? Macro-level evidence," IZA Journal of Labor Policy, Sciendo & Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 11(1), pages 1-50, May.
    13. Sarah Perret, 2021. "Why were most wealth taxes abandoned and is this time different?," Fiscal Studies, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 42(3-4), pages 539-563, September.
    14. Bartels, Charlotte & Waldenström, Daniel, 2021. "Inequality and top incomes," GLO Discussion Paper Series 959, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
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    16. Orsetta Causa & Anna Vindics & Oguzhan Akgun, 2018. "An empirical investigation on the drivers of income redistribution across OECD countries," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 1488, OECD Publishing.

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    Keywords

    Income inequality; Tax policy;

    JEL classification:

    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation
    • H24 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Personal Income and Other Nonbusiness Taxes and Subsidies
    • H26 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Tax Evasion and Avoidance

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