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A Theory of Income Taxation under Multidimensional Skill Heterogeneity

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Listed:
  • Casey Rothschild
  • Florian Scheuer

Abstract

We develop a unifying framework for optimal income taxation in multi-sector economies with general patterns of externalities. Agents in this model are characterized by an N-dimensional skill vector corresponding to intrinsic abilities in N potentially externality-causing activities. The private return to each activity depends on individual skill and an aggregate activity-specific return, which is a fully general function of the economy-wide distribution of activity-specific efforts. We show that the N-dimensional heterogeneity can be collapsed to a one-dimensional, endogenous statistic sufficient for screening. The optimal tax schedule features a multiplicative income-specific correction to an otherwise standard tax formula. Because externalities change the relative returns to different activities, corrective taxes induce changes in the across-activity allocation of effort. These relative return effects cause the optimal correction to diverge, in general, from the Pigouvian tax that would align private and social returns. We characterize this divergence and its implications for the shape of the tax schedule both generally and in a number of applications, including externality-free economies, increasing and decreasing returns to scale, zero-sum activities such as bargaining or rent extraction, and positive or negative spillovers.

Suggested Citation

  • Casey Rothschild & Florian Scheuer, 2014. "A Theory of Income Taxation under Multidimensional Skill Heterogeneity," NBER Working Papers 19822, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19822
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Spencer Bastani & Jacob Lundberg, 2016. "Political Preferences for Redistribution in Sweden," CESifo Working Paper Series 6205, CESifo Group Munich.
    2. repec:bla:scandj:v:119:y:2017:i:4:p:910-938 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Aleh Tsyvinski & Nicolas Werquin, 2017. "Generalized Compensation Principle," NBER Working Papers 23509, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. repec:oup:qjecon:v:132:y:2017:i:1:p:211-270. is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Robin Boadway & Zhen Song & Jean-François Tremblay, 2017. "Optimal Income Taxation and Job Choice," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 119(4), pages 910-938, October.
    6. Florian Scheuer & Iván Werning, 2017. "The Taxation of Superstars," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 132(1), pages 211-270.
    7. Mikhail Golosov & Aleh Tsyvinski & Nicolas Werquin, 2014. "A Variational Approach to the Analysis of Tax Systems," NBER Working Papers 20780, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Bastani, Spencer & Lundberg, Jacob, 2016. "Political preferences for redistribution in Sweden," Working Paper Series 2016:13, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.
    9. Stefanie Stantcheva, 2015. "Learning and (or) Doing: Human Capital Investments and Optimal Taxation," NBER Working Papers 21381, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Renato Gomes & Jean-Marie Lozachmeur & Alessandro Pavan, 2014. "Differential Taxation and Occupational Choice," Discussion Papers 1577, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
    11. Laurence Ales & Musab Kurnaz & Christopher Sleet, 2015. "Technical Change, Wage Inequality, and Taxes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(10), pages 3061-3101, October.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D5 - Microeconomics - - General Equilibrium and Disequilibrium
    • D6 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics
    • D8 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty
    • E2 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment
    • H2 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue
    • J3 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs

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