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Taxpayers Responsiveness to Tax Rate Changes and Implications for the Cost of Taxation

The elasticity of taxable income with respect to net-of-tax rate is key in evaluating tax policies and predicting tax revenue effects. This paper estimates the elasticity of taxable income for Swedish taxpayers using two different approaches and a number of control variables using the 1990/1991 tax reform as a “natural experiment“. The preferred elasticity estimates fall in the range of 0.4 to 0.5, numbers comparable with recent estimates for the U.S., but higher than most estimates of the labor supply elasticity in Sweden. Therefore, tax policy evaluations based on labor supply elasticities are likely to underestimate taxpayer response to tax rate changes and to overestimate potential tax revenues from tax rate increases. Re-estimating the deadweight loss of labor taxation using my estimates of elasticity of taxable income, I find that deadweight loss may be substantially higher than suggested by estimates based on labor supply elasticities.

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Paper provided by Lund University, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 2004:5.

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Length: 32 pages
Date of creation: 02 Feb 2004
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in International Tax and Public Finance, 2007, pages 563-582.
Handle: RePEc:hhs:lunewp:2004_005
Contact details of provider: Postal: Department of Economics, School of Economics and Management, Lund University, Box 7082, S-220 07 Lund,Sweden
Phone: +46 +46 222 0000
Fax: +46 +46 2224613
Web page: http://www.nek.lu.se/en

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  1. Austan Goolsbee, 1998. "It's Not About the Money: Why Natural Experiments Don't Work on the Rich," NBER Working Papers 6395, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Thor O. Thoresen & Karl Ove Aarbu, 1999. "Income Responses to Tax Changes – Evidence from the Norwegian Tax Reform," Discussion Papers 260, Statistics Norway, Research Department.
  3. Martin Feldstein, 1995. "Tax Avoidance and the Deadweight Loss of the Income Tax," NBER Working Papers 5055, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Ballard, Charles L & Shoven, John B & Whalley, John, 1985. "General Equilibrium Computations of the Marginal Welfare Costs of Taxes in the United States," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(1), pages 128-38, March.
  5. Joel Slemrod & Wojciech Kopczuk, 2000. "The Optimal Elasticity of Taxable Income," NBER Working Papers 7922, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Browning, Edgar K, 1987. "On the Marginal Welfare Cost of Taxation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(1), pages 11-23, March.
  7. Hansson, Ingemar & Stuart, Charles, 1985. "Tax revenue and the marginal cost of public funds in Sweden," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(3), pages 331-353, August.
  8. N. S. Blomquist & U. Hansson-Brusewitz, 1990. "The Effect of Taxes on Male and Female Labor Supply in Sweden," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 25(3), pages 317-357.
  9. Edin, P.-A. & Fredriksson, P., 2000. "LINDA - Longitudinal INdividual DAta for Sweden," Papers 2000-19, Uppsala - Working Paper Series.
  10. Lawrence B. Lindsey, 1985. "Estimating the Revenue Maximizing Top Personal Tax Rate," NBER Working Papers 1761, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Gruber, Jon & Saez, Emmanuel, 2002. "The elasticity of taxable income: evidence and implications," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(1), pages 1-32, April.
  12. Browning, Edgar K, 1976. "The Marginal Cost of Public Funds," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 84(2), pages 283-98, April.
  13. Stuart, Charles E, 1981. "Swedish Tax Rates, Labor Supply, and Tax Revenues," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 1020-38, October.
  14. Arnold Harberger, 1964. "Taxation, Resource Allocation, and Welfare," NBER Chapters, in: The Role of Direct and Indirect Taxes in the Federal Reserve System, pages 25-80 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Gerald Auten & Robert Carroll, 1999. "The Effect Of Income Taxes On Household Income," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 81(4), pages 681-693, November.
  16. Stuart, Charles E, 1984. "Welfare Costs per Dollar of Additional Tax Revenue in the United States," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(3), pages 352-62, June.
  17. Gustafsson, Bjorn & Palmer, Edward, 2002. "Was the Burden of the Deep Swedish Recession Equally Shared?," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 48(4), pages 537-60, December.
  18. Robert A. Moffitt & Mark Wilhelm, 1998. "Taxation and the Labor Supply: Decisions of the Affluent," NBER Working Papers 6621, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Slemrod, Joel, 1998. "Methodological Issues in Measuring and Interpreting Taxable Income Elasticities," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 51(n. 4), pages 773-88, December.
  20. Hansson, Ingemar, 1984. " Marginal Cost of Public Funds for Different Tax Instruments and Government Expenditures," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 86(2), pages 115-30.
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