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High Marginal Tax Rates on the Top 1%? Lessons from a Life Cycle Model with Idiosyncratic Income Risk

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  • Fabian Kindermann
  • Dirk Krueger

Abstract

In this paper we argue that very high marginal labor income tax rates are an effective tool for social insurance even when households have preferences with high labor supply elasticity, make dynamic savings decisions, and policies have general equilibrium effects. To make this point we construct a large scale Overlapping Generations Model with uninsurable labor productivity risk, show that it has a wealth distribution that matches the data well, and then use it to characterize fiscal policies that achieve a desired degree of redistribution in society. We find that marginal tax rates on the top 1% of the earnings distribution of close to 90% are optimal. We document that this result is robust to plausible variation in the labor supply elasticity and holds regardless of whether social welfare is measured at the steady state only or includes transitional generations.

Suggested Citation

  • Fabian Kindermann & Dirk Krueger, 2014. "High Marginal Tax Rates on the Top 1%? Lessons from a Life Cycle Model with Idiosyncratic Income Risk," NBER Working Papers 20601, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:20601
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Hans Fehr & Fabian Kindermann, 2012. "Optimal Taxation with Current and Future Cohorts," CESifo Working Paper Series 3973, CESifo Group Munich.
    2. Peter Diamond & Emmanuel Saez, 2011. "The Case for a Progressive Tax: From Basic Research to Policy Recommendations," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(4), pages 165-190, Fall.
    3. Mark Huggett & Alejandro Badel, 2013. "Taxing Top Earners: A Human Capital Perspective," 2013 Meeting Papers 625, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    4. Jacobs, Bas & Schindler, Dirk, 2012. "On the desirability of taxing capital income in optimal social insurance," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(9-10), pages 853-868.
    5. Holter, Hans A. & Krueger, Dirk & Stepanchuk, Serhiy, 2014. "How does tax progressivity and household heterogeneity affect Laffer curves?," CFS Working Paper Series 490, Center for Financial Studies (CFS).
    6. Guner, Nezih & Lopez-Daneri, Martin & Ventura, Gustavo, 2016. "Heterogeneity and Government revenues: Higher taxes at the top?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 80(C), pages 69-85.
    7. Conesa, Juan Carlos & Krueger, Dirk, 2006. "On the optimal progressivity of the income tax code," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(7), pages 1425-1450, October.
    8. Javier Díaz-Giménez & Andrew Glover & José-Víctor Ríos-Rull, 2011. "Facts on the distributions of earnings, income, and wealth in the United States: 2007 update," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
    9. Juan Carlos Conesa & Sagiri Kitao & Dirk Krueger, 2009. "Taxing Capital? Not a Bad Idea after All!," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(1), pages 25-48, March.
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    11. David Domeij & Jonathan Heathcote, 2004. "On The Distributional Effects Of Reducing Capital Taxes," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 45(2), pages 523-554, May.
    12. Facundo Alvaredo & Anthony B. Atkinson & Thomas Piketty & Emmanuel Saez, 2013. "The Top 1 Percent in International and Historical Perspective," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 27(3), pages 3-20, Summer.
    13. Emmanuel Saez, 2001. "Using Elasticities to Derive Optimal Income Tax Rates," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 68(1), pages 205-229.
    14. Chamley, Christophe, 1986. "Optimal Taxation of Capital Income in General Equilibrium with Infinite Lives," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 54(3), pages 607-622, May.
    15. Hsu, Minchung & Yang, C.C., 2013. "Optimal linear and two-bracket income taxes with idiosyncratic earnings risk," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 105(C), pages 58-71.
    16. Huggett, Mark, 1993. "The risk-free rate in heterogeneous-agent incomplete-insurance economies," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 17(5-6), pages 953-969.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • 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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