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Lifetime vs. Annual Perspectives on Tax Incidence

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  • Don Fullerton
  • Diane Lim Rogers

Abstract

Recent academic research on tax incidence has shifted from an emphasis on static and annual perspectives to examinations of dynamic and lifetime issues. Meanwhile, policy economists are forced to rely on annual data and hence annual analyses. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the nature and analysis of lifetime tax incidence, and to compare and contrast this lifetime perspective with the more familiar annual perspective. In our comparison, we find that (1) the lifetime perspective requires much more data over longer periods of time, because results depends critically on the whole shape of the lifetime earnings profile, (2) individuals classified by annual income decile are often reclassified into very different lifetime income deciles, (3) the personal income tax and corporate income tax appear less progressive on a lifetime basis, while consumption taxes appear less regressive on a lifetime basis, and (4) despite the different approaches and the different reasons underlying the incidence of each particular tax, the lifetime incidence of the entire U.S. tax system is strikingly similar to the annual incidence.

Suggested Citation

  • Don Fullerton & Diane Lim Rogers, 1991. "Lifetime vs. Annual Perspectives on Tax Incidence," NBER Working Papers 3750, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:3750 Note: PE
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    1. Poterba, James M, 1989. "Lifetime Incidence and the Distributional Burden of Excise Taxes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(2), pages 325-330, May.
    2. Arnold C. Harberger, 1962. "The Incidence of the Corporation Income Tax," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 70, pages 215-215.
    3. Judd, Kenneth L, 1987. "The Welfare Cost of Factor Taxation in a Perfect-Foresight Model," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 95(4), pages 675-709, August.
    4. N/A, 1985. "General Policy," India Quarterly: A Journal of International Affairs, , vol. 41(1), pages 74-79, January.
    5. Ballard, Charles L. & Fullerton, Don & Shoven, John B. & Whalley, John, 2009. "A General Equilibrium Model for Tax Policy Evaluation," National Bureau of Economic Research Books, University of Chicago Press, edition 0, number 9780226036335.
    6. Lyon, Andrew B & Schwab, Robert M, 1995. "Consumption Taxes in a Life-Cycle Framework: Are Sin Taxes Regressive?," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 77(3), pages 389-406, August.
    7. Kotlikoff, Laurence J & Summers, Lawrence H, 1981. "The Role of Intergenerational Transfers in Aggregate Capital Accumulation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(4), pages 706-732, August.
    8. N/A, 1985. "General Policy," India Quarterly: A Journal of International Affairs, , vol. 41(1), pages 112-117, January.
    9. Don Fullerton & Gilbert Metcalf, 2002. "The Distribution of Tax Burdens," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0201, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
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