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Schedule Selection by Agents: from Price Plans to Tax Tables

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  • Erzo F.P. Luttmer
  • Richard J. Zeckhauser

Abstract

Requiring agents with private information to select from a menu of incentive schedules can yield efficiency gains. It will do so if, and only if, agents will receive further private information after selecting the incentive schedule but before taking the action that determines where on the incentive schedule they end up. We argue that this information structure is relevant in many applications. We develop the theory underlying optimal menus of non-linear schedules and prove that there exists a menu of schedules that offers a strict first-order interim Pareto improvement over the optimal single non-linear schedule. We quantify the gains from schedule selection in two settings. The first is a stylized example of a monopolistic utility company increasing profits by offering a menu of price plans. The second is a simulation based on U.S. earnings data, which shows that moving to a tax system that allows individuals to choose their tax schedule increases social welfare by the same amount as would occur from a 4.0 percent windfall gain in the government budget (or about $600 per filer per year). The resulting reduction in distortions accounts for about two thirds of the increase in social welfare while the remainder comes from an increase in redistribution.

Suggested Citation

  • Erzo F.P. Luttmer & Richard J. Zeckhauser, 2008. "Schedule Selection by Agents: from Price Plans to Tax Tables," NBER Working Papers 13808, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13808
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Findeisen, Sebastian & Sachs, Dominik, 2016. "Education and optimal dynamic taxation: The role of income-contingent student loans," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 138(C), pages 1-21.
    2. Tomer Blumkin & Efraim Sadka, 2010. "Rising UI benefits over time," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 17(5), pages 501-517, October.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D42 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Monopoly
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation

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