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Optimal Income Taxation with Unemployment and Wage Responses: A Sufficient Statistics Approach

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  • Kory Kroft
  • Kavan J. Kucko
  • Etienne Lehmann
  • Johannes F. Schmieder

Abstract

This paper reassesses whether the optimal income tax program features an Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or a Negative Income Tax (NIT) at the bottom of the income distribution, in the presence of unemployment and wage responses to taxation. The paper makes two key contributions. First, it derives a sufficient statistics optimal tax formula in a general model that incorporates unemployment and endogenous wages. This formula nests a broad variety of structures of the labor market, such as competitive models with fixed or flexible wages and models with matching frictions. Our results show that the sufficient statistics to be estimated are: the macro employment response with respect to taxation and the micro and macro participation responses with respect to taxation. We show that an EITC-like policy is optimal provided that the welfare weight on the working poor is larger than the ratio of the micro participation elasticity to the macro participation elasticity. The second contribution is to estimate the sufficient statistics that are inputs to the optimal tax formula using a standard quasi-experimental research design. We estimate these reduced-form parameters using policy variation in tax liabilities stemming from the U.S. tax and transfer system for over 20 years. Using our empirical estimates, we implement our sufficient statistics formula and show that the optimal tax at the bottom more closely resembles an NIT relative to the case where unemployment and wage responses are not taken into account.

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  • Kory Kroft & Kavan J. Kucko & Etienne Lehmann & Johannes F. Schmieder, 2015. "Optimal Income Taxation with Unemployment and Wage Responses: A Sufficient Statistics Approach," NBER Working Papers 21757, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:21757
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    Cited by:

    1. Albert Jan Hummel & Bas Jacobs, 2018. "Optimal Income Taxation in Unionized Labor Markets," CESifo Working Paper Series 7188, CESifo.
    2. Albert Jan Hummel, 2021. "Unemployment and Tax Design," CESifo Working Paper Series 9177, CESifo.
    3. Islam, Nizamul & Colombino, Ugo, 2018. "The case for NIT+FT in Europe. An empirical optimal taxation exercise," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 75(C), pages 38-69.
    4. Lavecchia, Adam M., 2020. "Minimum wage policy with optimal taxes and unemployment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 190(C).
    5. Albert Jan Hummel, 2021. "Unemployment and tax design," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 21-061/VI, Tinbergen Institute.
    6. Laurence Jacquet & Etienne Lehmann, 2021. "Optimal Income Taxation with Composition Effects," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 19(2), pages 1299-1341.
    7. Robin Boadway & Katherine Cuff, 2018. "Optimal unemployment insurance and redistribution," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 20(3), pages 303-324, June.
    8. Brendan Epstein & Ryan Nunn & Musa Orak & Elena Patel, 2020. "Taxation, Social Welfare, and Labor Market Frictions," International Finance Discussion Papers 1284, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    9. Nizamul Islam & Ugo Colombino, 2018. "The case for negative income tax with flat tax in Europe. An empirical optimal taxation exercise," Working Papers 454, ECINEQ, Society for the Study of Economic Inequality.
    10. Zweimüller, Josef, 2018. "Unemployment insurance and the labor market," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 1-14.
    11. Ugo Colombino & Nizamul Islam, 2021. "Global and digitalised economy, new labour demand scenarios and optimal tax-transfer reforms," CHILD Working Papers Series 90 JEL Classification: H2, Centre for Household, Income, Labour and Demographic Economics (CHILD) - CCA.
    12. Jones, Damon & Marinescu, Ioana E., 2018. "The Labor Market Impacts of Universal and Permanent Cash Transfers: Evidence from the Alaska Permanent Fund," IZA Discussion Papers 11356, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    13. Aart Gerritsen, 2016. "Equity and Efficiency in Rationed Labor Markets," Working Papers tax-mpg-rps-2016-04, Max Planck Institute for Tax Law and Public Finance.
    14. Johannes F. Schmieder & Till von Wachter, 2016. "The Effects of Unemployment Insurance Benefits: New Evidence and Interpretation," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 8(1), pages 547-581, October.
    15. Gerritsen, Aart, 2017. "Equity and efficiency in rationed labor markets," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 153(C), pages 56-68.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation
    • H22 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Incidence
    • H23 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Externalities; Redistributive Effects; Environmental Taxes and Subsidies
    • J2 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor
    • J21 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Force and Employment, Size, and Structure
    • J23 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Demand

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