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Reported Incomes and Marginal Tax Rates, 1960-2000: Evidence and Policy Implications

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  • Emmanuel Saez

Abstract

This paper use income tax return data from 1960 to 2000 to analyze the link between reported incomes and marginal tax rates. Only the top 1% incomes show evidence of behavioral responses to taxation. The data displays striking heterogeneity in the size of responses to tax changes overtime, with no response either short-term or long-term for the very large Kennedy top rate cuts in the early1960s, and striking evidence of responses, at least in the short-term, to the tax changes since the 1980s. The 1980s tax cuts generated a surge in business income reported by high income individual taxpayers due to a shift away from the corporate sector, and the disappearance of business losses for tax avoidance. The Tax Reform Act of 1986 and the recent 1993 tax increase generated large short-term responses of wages and salaries reported by top income earners, most likely due to re-timing in compensation to take advantage of the tax changes. However, it is unlikely that the extraordinary trend upward of the shares of total wages accruing to top wage income earners, which started in the 1970s and accelerated in the 1980s and especially the late 1990s, can be explained solely by the evolution of marginal tax rates.

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  • Emmanuel Saez, 2004. "Reported Incomes and Marginal Tax Rates, 1960-2000: Evidence and Policy Implications," NBER Working Papers 10273, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10273
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    1. Houben, Henriette & Baumgarten, Jörg, 2011. "Krankt das deutsche Steuersystem am Mittelstandsbauch und der kalten Progession?," arqus Discussion Papers in Quantitative Tax Research 119, arqus - Arbeitskreis Quantitative Steuerlehre.
    2. Blomquist, Sören & Selin, Håkan, 2010. "Hourly wage rate and taxable labor income responsiveness to changes in marginal tax rates," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(11-12), pages 878-889, December.
    3. Raj Chetty & Adam Looney & Kory Kroft, 2009. "Salience and Taxation: Theory and Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(4), pages 1145-1177, September.
    4. Frey, Christian & Schaltegger, Christoph A., 2016. "Progressive taxes and top income shares: A historical perspective on pre- and post-tax income concentration in Switzerland," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 148(C), pages 5-9.
    5. Joseph Gyourko & Christopher Mayer & Todd Sinai, 2010. "Dispersion in House Price and Income Growth across Markets: Facts and Theories," NBER Chapters,in: Agglomeration Economics, pages 67-104 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Roine, Jesper & Waldenstrom, Daniel, 2008. "The evolution of top incomes in an egalitarian society: Sweden, 1903-2004," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(1-2), pages 366-387, February.
    7. Frydman, Carola & Molloy, Raven S., 2011. "Does tax policy affect executive compensation? Evidence from postwar tax reforms," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(11), pages 1425-1437.
    8. Anthony B. Atkinson & Thomas Piketty & Emmanuel Saez, 2011. "Top Incomes in the Long Run of History," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 49(1), pages 3-71, March.
    9. A B Atkinson & Andrew Leigh, 2010. "The Distribution of Top Incomes in Five Anglo-Saxon Countries over the Twentieth Century," CEPR Discussion Papers 640, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
    10. Jarkko Harju & Tuomas Matikka, 2013. "The elasticity of taxable income and income-shifting between tax bases: what is “real” and what is not?," Working Papers 1313, Oxford University Centre for Business Taxation.
    11. Sanz-Sanz, José Félix, 2016. "The Laffer curve in schedular multi-rate income taxes with non-genuine allowances: An application to Spain," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 55(C), pages 42-56.
    12. Weber, Caroline E., 2014. "Toward obtaining a consistent estimate of the elasticity of taxable income using difference-in-differences," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 117(C), pages 90-103.
    13. Frydman, Carola & Molloy, Raven, 2012. "Pay Cuts for the Boss: Executive Compensation in the 1940s," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 72(01), pages 225-251, March.
    14. Stefan Bach & Giacomo Corneo & Viktor Steiner, 2005. "Top Incomes and Top Taxes in Germany," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 532, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
    15. Emmanuel Saez, 2004. "Reported Incomes and Marginal Tax Rates, 1960-2000: Evidence and Policy Implications," NBER Chapters,in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 18, pages 117-174 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. Raj Chetty & John N. Friedman & Tore Olsen & Luigi Pistaferri, 2011. "Adjustment Costs, Firm Responses, and Micro vs. Macro Labor Supply Elasticities: Evidence from Danish Tax Records," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(2), pages 749-804.
    17. 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.
    18. Holmlund Bertil & Söderström Martin, 2011. "Estimating Dynamic Income Responses to Tax Reform," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 11(1), pages 1-38, November.
    19. Doerrenberg, Philipp & Peichl, Andreas & Siegloch, Sebastian, 2014. "Sufficient Statistic or Not? The Elasticity of Taxable Income in the Presence of Deduction Possibilities," IZA Discussion Papers 8554, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    20. Jarkko Harju & Tuomas Matikka, 2016. "The elasticity of taxable income and income-shifting: what is “real” and what is not?," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 23(4), pages 640-669, August.
    21. Robert McClelland & Shannon Mok, 2012. "A Review of Recent Research on Labor Supply Elasticities: Working Paper 2012-12," Working Papers 43675, Congressional Budget Office.
    22. Matikka, Tuomas, 2014. "Taxable Income Elasticity and the Anatomy of Behavioral Response: Evidence from Finland," Working Papers 55, VATT Institute for Economic Research.
    23. Thomas Piketty & Emmanuel Saez, 2007. "How Progressive is the U.S. Federal Tax System? A Historical and International Perspective," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(1), pages 3-24, Winter.
    24. Seth H. Giertz, 2004. "Recent Literature on Taxable-Income Elasticities: Technical Paper 2004-16," Working Papers 16189, Congressional Budget Office.
    25. Claudio Agostini & Eduardo Engel & Andrea Repetto & Damian Vergara, 2017. "Individual Tax Planning and Small Business Creation: Evidence on the Impact of Special Tax Regimes in Chile," Working Papers wp_054, Adolfo Ibáñez University, School of Government.

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    • H3 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents

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