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Choosing The Tax Rate in a Linear Income Tax Structure: An Introduction

  • John Creedy

This paper provides an introduction to modelling the choice of linear income tax rate in both majority voting and social welfare maximising contexts. Although the basic problem in each case — of finding the most preferred tax for the median voter and the welfare maximising tax for an independent judge or decision-maker — can be simply stated, it is usually not possible to obtain explicit solutions even for simple assumptions about preferences and population heterogeneity. The present paper instead gives special attention to a formulation of the required conditions in terms of easily interpreted magnitudes, the elasticity of average earnings with respect to the tax rate and a measure of inequality. The inequality measure takes the same basic form in each model (depending either on median earnings or a weighted average of earnings, where the weights depend on value judgements regarding inequality aversion. The approach enables the comparative static effects of a range of parameter changes to be considered. The results are reinforced using numerical examples based on the constant elasticity of substitution utility function.

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Paper provided by The University of Melbourne in its series Department of Economics - Working Papers Series with number 1006.

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Length: 30 pages
Date of creation: 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:mlb:wpaper:1006
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  1. Tuomala, Matti, 1985. " Simplified Formulae for Optimal Linear Income Taxation," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 87(4), pages 668-72.
  2. Roberts, Kevin W. S., 1977. "Voting over income tax schedules," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(3), pages 329-340, December.
  3. Diamond, Peter A, 1998. "Optimal Income Taxation: An Example with a U-Shaped Pattern of Optimal Marginal Tax Rates," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(1), pages 83-95, March.
  4. Banks, James & Blundell, Richard & Lewbel, Arthur, 1996. "Tax Reform and Welfare Measurement: Do We Need Demand System Estimation?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 106(438), pages 1227-41, September.
  5. Hindriks, Jean & Myles, Gareth D., 2013. "Intermediate Public Economics," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 2, volume 1, number 0262018691, June.
  6. Rainald Borck, 2005. "Voting, Inequality, and Redistribution," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 503, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  7. Mirrlees, James A, 1971. "An Exploration in the Theory of Optimum Income Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 38(114), pages 175-208, April.
  8. Creedy, John & Francois, Patrick, 1993. "Voting over income tax progression in a two-period model," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(2), pages 291-298, February.
  9. Creedy, John, 1998. "Means-Tested versus Universal Transfers: Alternative Models and Value Judgements," The Manchester School of Economic & Social Studies, University of Manchester, vol. 66(1), pages 100-117, January.
  10. Gans, Joshua S. & Smart, Michael, 1996. "Majority voting with single-crossing preferences," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(2), pages 219-237, February.
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