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Tax Progressivity and Top Incomes: Evidence from Tax Reforms

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  • Rubolino, Enrico

    (University of Lausanne)

  • Waldenström, Daniel

    (Research Institute of Industrial Economics, Stockholm)

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," IZA Discussion Papers 10666, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp10666
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    8. 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.
    9. 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.
    10. 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.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    taxation; income inequality; tax policy;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • 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
    • H31 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Household
    • H76 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - Other Expenditure Categories

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