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Optimal observability in a linear income tax

Author

Listed:
  • Joel Slemrod

    (University of Michigan)

  • Christian Traxler

    () (Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods)

Abstract

We study the optimal observability of the tax base within the standard linear income tax problem, where observability is determined by the government’s investment into the accurate measurement of the tax base. We characterize the optimal level of observability and derive a new expression for the optimal progressivity, which – in addition to the standard equity efficiency trade-off – accounts for the limited accuracy of an income tax system.

Suggested Citation

  • Joel Slemrod & Christian Traxler, 2010. "Optimal observability in a linear income tax," Discussion Paper Series of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods 2010_04, Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods.
  • Handle: RePEc:mpg:wpaper:2010_04
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Brito, Dagobert L. & Hamilton, Jonathan H. & Slutsky, Steven M. & Stiglitz, Joseph E., 1995. "Randomization in optimal income tax schedules," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(2), pages 189-223, February.
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    3. Emmanuel Saez & Joel Slemrod & Seth H. Giertz, 2012. "The Elasticity of Taxable Income with Respect to Marginal Tax Rates: A Critical Review," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 50(1), pages 3-50, March.
    4. Stiglitz, Joseph E., 1982. "Utilitarianism and horizontal equity : The case for random taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 1-33, June.
    5. Henrik Jacobsen Kleven & Wojciech Kopczuk, 2011. "Transfer Program Complexity and the Take-Up of Social Benefits," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 3(1), pages 54-90, February.
    6. Kaplow, Louis, 1998. "Accuracy, Complexity, and the Income Tax," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 14(1), pages 61-83, April.
    7. Scotchmer, Suzanne & Slemrod, Joel, 1989. "Randomness in tax enforcement," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 38(1), pages 17-32, February.
    8. Hellwig, Martin F., 2007. "The undesirability of randomized income taxation under decreasing risk aversion," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(3-4), pages 791-816, April.
    9. Scotchmer, Suzanne, 1989. "Who profits from taxpayer confusion?," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 49-55.
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    11. Pestieau, Pierre & Possen, Uri M. & Slutsky, Steven M., 1998. "The value of explicit randomization in the tax code," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 67(1), pages 87-103, January.
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    13. Kopczuk, Wojciech, 2001. "Redistribution when avoidance behavior is heterogeneous," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 81(1), pages 51-71, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Mirco Tonin, 2014. "Reporting import tariffs (and other taxes)," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 21(1), pages 153-173, February.
    2. Gauthier, Stéphane & Laroque, Guy, 2014. "On the value of randomization," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 151(C), pages 493-507.
    3. Traxler, Christian, 2012. "Majority voting and the welfare implications of tax avoidance," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(1), pages 1-9.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    optimal linear income taxation; observability; tax enforcement;

    JEL classification:

    • D8 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty
    • H11 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation

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