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Taxing Leisure Complements

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  • Louis Kaplow

Abstract

Ever since Corlett and Hague (1953), it has been understood that it tends to be optimal on second-best grounds to (relatively) tax complements to leisure and subsidize substitutes because doing so helps to offset the distorting effect of taxation on labor supply. Yet in the context of simultaneous optimization of a nonlinear income tax and commodity taxes, Atkinson and Stiglitz (1976) claim to have demonstrated the opposite, that goods complementary with leisure should "face lower tax rates, whereas substitutes face higher tax rates." Derivations in leading texts on optimal taxation seem to yield opposing conclusions regarding the sign of optimal deviation of commodity taxes from uniformity. It is demonstrated that the optimality of relatively taxing leisure complements is indeed correct, and conflicting results are explained.

Suggested Citation

  • Louis Kaplow, 2008. "Taxing Leisure Complements," NBER Working Papers 14397, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14397
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Kaplow, Louis, 2006. "On the undesirability of commodity taxation even when income taxation is not optimal," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(6-7), pages 1235-1250, August.
    2. Léonard,Daniel & Long,Ngo van, 1992. "Optimal Control Theory and Static Optimization in Economics," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521331586.
    3. Aled ab Iorwerth & John Whalley, 2002. "Efficiency considerations and the exemption of food from sales and value added taxes," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 35(1), pages 166-182, February.
    4. Myles,Gareth D., 1995. "Public Economics," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521497695.
    5. West, Sara E. & Parry, Ian W.H., 2009. "Alcohol-Leisure Complementarity: Empirical Estimates and Implications for Tax Policy," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 62(4), pages 611-633, December.
    6. W. J. Corlett & D. C. Hague, 1953. "Complementarity and the Excess Burden of Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 21(1), pages 21-30.
    7. Laroque, Guy R., 2005. "Indirect taxation is superfluous under separability and taste homogeneity: a simple proof," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 87(1), pages 141-144, April.
    8. J. A. Mirrlees, 1971. "An Exploration in the Theory of Optimum Income Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 38(2), pages 175-208.
    9. Leonard, Daniel, 1987. "Co-state variables correctly value stocks at each instant A proof," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 11(1), pages 117-122, March.
    10. Atkinson, A. B. & Stiglitz, J. E., 1976. "The design of tax structure: Direct versus indirect taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(1-2), pages 55-75.
    11. Dorfman, Robert, 1969. "An Economic Interpretation of Optimal Control Theory," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 59(5), pages 817-831, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Louis Kaplow, 2011. "An Optimal Tax System," NBER Working Papers 17214, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. N. Gregory Mankiw & Matthew Weinzierl & Danny Yagan, 2009. "Optimal Taxation in Theory and Practice," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 23(4), pages 147-174, Fall.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • 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

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