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Nonlinear Tax Incidence and Optimal Taxation in General Equilibrium

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  • Dominik Sachs
  • Aleh Tsyvinski
  • Nicolas Werquin

Abstract

We study the incidence and the optimal design of nonlinear income taxes in a Mirrleesian economy with a continuum of endogenous wages. We characterize analytically the incidence of any tax reform by showing that one can mathematically formalize this problem as an integral equation. For a CES production function, we show theoretically and numerically that the general equilibrium forces raise the revenue gains from increasing the progressivity of the U.S. tax schedule. This result is reinforced in the case of a Translog technology where closer skill types are stronger substitutes. We then characterize the optimum tax schedule, and derive a simple closed-form expression for the top tax rate. The U-shape of optimal marginal tax rates is more pronounced than in partial equilibrium. The joint analysis of tax incidence and optimal taxation reveals that the economic insights obtained for the optimum may be reversed when considering reforms of a suboptimal tax code.

Suggested Citation

  • Dominik Sachs & Aleh Tsyvinski & Nicolas Werquin, 2016. "Nonlinear Tax Incidence and Optimal Taxation in General Equilibrium," NBER Working Papers 22646, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:22646
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    1. repec:eee:inecon:v:108:y:2017:i:c:p:387-412 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Laurence Jacquet & Etienne Lehmann, 2017. "Optimal Income Taxation with Composition Effects," CESifo Working Paper Series 6654, CESifo Group Munich.
    3. Aleh Tsyvinski & Nicolas Werquin, 2017. "Generalized Compensation Principle," NBER Working Papers 23509, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Antràs, Pol & de Gortari, Alonso & Itskhoki, Oleg, 2017. "Globalization, inequality and welfare," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 108(C), pages 387-412.

    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
    • H22 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Incidence

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