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The "Flat Tax(es)"; Principles and Evidence

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  • Ricardo Varsano
  • Kevin Kim
  • Michael Keen

Abstract

One of the most striking tax developments in recent years, and one that continues to attract considerable attention, is the adoption by several countries of a form of "flat tax." Discussion of these quite radical reforms has been marked, however, more by assertion and rhetoric than by analysis and evidence. This paper reviews experience with the flat tax, seeking to redress the balance. It stresses that the flat taxes that have been adopted differ fundamentally, and that empirical evidence on their effects is very limited. This precludes simple generalization, but several lessons emerge: there is no sign of Laffer-type behavioral responses generating revenue increases from the tax cut elements of these reforms; their impact on compliance is theoretically ambiguous, but there is evidence for Russia that compliance did improve; the distributional effects of the flat taxes are not unambiguously regressive, and in some cases they may have increased progressivity, including through the impact on compliance; adoption of the flat tax has not resolved common challenges in taxing capital income; and it may have strengthened, not weakened, the automatic stabilizers. Looking forward, the question is not so much whether more countries will adopt a flat tax as whether those that have will move away from it.

Suggested Citation

  • Ricardo Varsano & Kevin Kim & Michael Keen, 2006. "The "Flat Tax(es)"; Principles and Evidence," IMF Working Papers 06/218, International Monetary Fund.
  • Handle: RePEc:imf:imfwpa:06/218
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Joel Slemrod, 2001. "A General Model of the Behavioral Response to Taxation," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 8(2), pages 119-128, March.
    2. repec:rus:hseeco:130398 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Vahram Stepanyan, 2003. "Reforming Tax Systems; Experience of the Baltics, Russia, and Other Countries of the Former Soviet Union," IMF Working Papers 03/173, International Monetary Fund.
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    Cited by:

    1. Colombino Ugo & Locatelli Marilena & Narazani Edlira & O'Donoghue Cathal & Isilda Shima, 2008. "Behavioural and Welfare Effects of Basic Income Policies: An A Simulation for European Countries," Department of Economics and Statistics Cognetti de Martiis. Working Papers 200806, University of Turin.
    2. Karsten Staehr, 2008. "Estimates of employment and welfare effects of personal labour income taxation in a flat-tax country : The case of Estonia," Bank of Estonia Working Papers 2008-03, Bank of Estonia, revised 30 Oct 2008.
    3. Alari PAULUS & Andreas PEICHL, "undated". "Effects of Flat Tax Reforms in Western Europe on Equity and Efficiency," EcoMod2008 23800105, EcoMod.
    4. Morawski, Leszek & Myck, Michal, 2010. "'Klin'-ing up: Effects of Polish tax reforms on those in and on those out," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(3), pages 556-566, June.
    5. International Monetary Fund, 2008. "Current and Proposed Non-Oil Tax System in Azerbaijan," IMF Working Papers 08/225, International Monetary Fund.
    6. Andreas Peichl & Thilo Schaefer & Christoph Scheicher, 2010. "Measuring Richness And Poverty: A Micro Data Application To Europe And Germany," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 56(3), pages 597-619, September.
    7. Ugo Colombino & Marilena Locatelli & Edlira Narazani & Cathal O’Donoghue & Isilda Shima, 2008. "Behavioural and Welfare Effects of Basic Income Policies: A Simulation for European Countries," CHILD Working Papers wp03_08, CHILD - Centre for Household, Income, Labour and Demographic economics - ITALY.
    8. Giuseppe Carone & Jan Host Schmidt & Gaetan Nicodeme, 2007. "Tax revenues in the European Union: Recent trends and challenges ahead," European Economy - Economic Papers 2008 - 2015 280, Directorate General Economic and Financial Affairs (DG ECFIN), European Commission.
    9. Stoyan Tanchev, 2016. "The Role of The Proportional Income Tax on Economic Growth of Bulgaria," Economic Studies journal, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences - Economic Research Institute, issue 4, pages 66-77.
    10. Schaefer, Thilo & Peichl, Andreas & Fuest, Clemens, 2007. "Is a Flat Tax politically feasible in a grown-up Welfare State?," FiFo Discussion Papers - Finanzwissenschaftliche Diskussionsbeiträge 07-6, University of Cologne, FiFo Institute for Public Economics.
    11. Ruud A. De Mooij & Bas Jacobs & Kees Folmer, 2007. "Analyzing a Flat Income Tax in the Netherlands," CESifo Working Paper Series 1890, CESifo Group Munich.
    12. Michael Keen & Yitae Kim & Ricardo Varsano, 2008. "The “flat tax(es)”: principles and experience," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 15(6), pages 712-751, December.
    13. Marcin Piatkowski & Mariusz Jarmuzek, 2008. "Zero Corporate Income Tax in Moldova; Tax Competition and Its Implications for Eastern Europe," IMF Working Papers 08/203, International Monetary Fund.
    14. Colombino Ugo & Locatelli Marilena & Narazani Edlira & O'Donoghue Cathal, 2010. "Alternative Basic Income Mechanisms: An Evaluation Exercise With a Microeconometric Model," Basic Income Studies, De Gruyter, vol. 5(1), pages 1-31, September.
    15. Andreas PEICHL, "undated". "The Benefits of Linking CGE and Microsimulation Models - Evidence from a Flat Tax analysis," EcoMod2008 23800106, EcoMod.
    16. Fuest, Clemens & Peichl, Andreas & Schaefer, Thilo, 2007. "Is a Flat Tax Feasible in a Grown-up Welfare State?," IZA Discussion Papers 3142, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    17. Giovanni Ganelli & Juha Tervala, 2014. "Dynamic Scoring in Open Economies," FinanzArchiv: Public Finance Analysis, Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 70(1), pages 31-66, March.
    18. Majcen, Boris & Verbic, Miroslav & Cok, Mitja, 2007. "The Income Tax Reform in Slovenia: Should the Flat Tax Have Prevailed?," MPRA Paper 10348, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    19. Paulus, Alari & Peichl, Andreas, 2009. "Effects of flat tax reforms in Western Europe," Journal of Policy Modeling, Elsevier, vol. 31(5), pages 620-636, September.
    20. Ruud Mooij, 2008. "Reinventing the Dutch tax-benefit system: exploring the frontier of the equity-efficiency trade-off," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 15(1), pages 87-103, February.
    21. Margit Schratzenstaller, 2007. "Unternehmensbesteuerung in der Europäischen Union: aktuelle Entwicklungen und Implikationen für die deutsche Steuerpolitik," Vierteljahrshefte zur Wirtschaftsforschung / Quarterly Journal of Economic Research, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research, vol. 76(2), pages 21-38.
    22. Roy Bahl & Sally Wallace, 2007. "From Income Tax to Consumption Tax?. The Case of Jamaica," FinanzArchiv: Public Finance Analysis, Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 63(3), pages 396-414, September.
    23. Tamás K. Papp & Elöd Takáts, 2008. "Tax Rate Cuts and Tax Compliance—The Laffer Curve Revisited," IMF Working Papers 08/7, International Monetary Fund.
    24. Benczúr, Péter & Benedek, Dóra & Bakos, Péter, 2008. "Az adóköteles jövedelem rugalmassága. Becslés és egy egykulcsos adórendszerre vonatkozó számítás a 2005. évi magyar adóváltozások alapján
      [The elasticity of taxable income: estimates and flat-tax p
      ," Közgazdasági Szemle (Economic Review - monthly of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences), Közgazdasági Szemle Alapítvány (Economic Review Foundation), vol. 0(9), pages 733-762.

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    Keywords

    Political economy; Income taxes; Income tax; Tax reforms; Tax systems; Flat tax; tax reform; flat taxes; marginal tax rate; Taxation; Subsidies; and Revenue: General; Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents: General;

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