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Trends and Gradients in Top Tax Elasticities: Cross-Country Evidence, 1900–2014

Author

Listed:
  • Rubolino, Enrico

    (Uppsala University)

  • Waldenström, Daniel

    () (Paris School of Economics)

Abstract

We compile data spanning the period 1900–2014 and up to 30 countries to study long-run patterns in the tax elasticity of top incomes. Our results show that top tax elasticities vary tremendously over time; they were medium-to-low before 1950, virtually zero during the postwar era up to 1980 and have thereafter increased to unprecedented levels. We document a strong income gradient in tax response within the top, underlining the importance to study even small top groups separately. Several mechanisms are investigated. Tax-driven income shifting between wage and capital income is important in the very top. Wars, financial crises, and country-specific effects and trends have bearing on top elasticities whereas standard macroeconomic factors and indicators of "real responses" do not.

Suggested Citation

  • Rubolino, Enrico & Waldenström, Daniel, 2017. "Trends and Gradients in Top Tax Elasticities: Cross-Country Evidence, 1900–2014," IZA Discussion Papers 10667, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp10667
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Atkinson, A. B. & Piketty, Thomas (ed.), 2010. "Top Incomes: A Global Perspective," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199286898.
    2. A. B Atkinson & Andrew Leigh, 2013. "The Distribution of Top Incomes in Five Anglo-Saxon Countries Over the Long Run," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 89, pages 31-47, June.
    3. Chiaki Moriguchi & Emmanuel Saez, 2008. "The Evolution of Income Concentration in Japan, 1886-2005: Evidence from Income Tax Statistics," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 90(4), pages 713-734, November.
    4. Facundo Alvaredo & Emmanuel Saez, 2009. "Income and Wealth Concentration in Spain from a Historical and Fiscal Perspective," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 7(5), pages 1140-1167, September.
    5. Anthony Atkinson & Thomas Piketty, 2010. "Top Incomes : A Global Perspective," Post-Print halshs-00754875, HAL.
    6. Roine, Jesper & Vlachos, Jonas & Waldenström, Daniel, 2009. "The long-run determinants of inequality: What can we learn from top income data?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(7-8), pages 974-988, August.
    7. Anthony Atkinson & Thomas Piketty, 2007. "Top incomes over the twentieth century: A contrast between continental european and english-speaking countries," Post-Print halshs-00754859, HAL.
    8. Atkinson, A. B. & Piketty, Thomas (ed.), 2007. "Top Incomes Over the Twentieth Century: A Contrast Between Continental European and English-Speaking Countries," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199286881.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    taxation; income inequality; economic history;

    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
    • N40 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - General, International, or Comparative

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