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Optimal Distribution and Taxation of the Family

  • Louis Kaplow

Income tax burdens on family units are adjusted to reflect differences in ability to pay attributable to whether the unit consists of a single individual or a married couple and how many dependents are present. Substantial controversy exists over the appropriate forms of adjustment, and existing approaches to taxation of the family vary greatly across jurisdictions. This article derives equitable relative tax burdens for different family configurations from a utilitarian welfare function. The analysis considers how relative burdens should depend on the extent to which resources are shared among family members, the existence of economies of scale, the presence of altruism among family members, whether expenditures on children should be viewed as part of parents' consumption, and the possibility that some family members (children) have different utility functions from others.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w4189.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 4189.

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Date of creation: Oct 1992
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Scandinavian Journal of Economics, vol. 98, no. 1, pp. 75-92, (1996).
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:4189
Note: PE
Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
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Web page: http://www.nber.org
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  1. Kaplow, Louis, 1995. "A note on subsidizing gifts," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 58(3), pages 469-477, November.
  2. Boskin, Michael J. & Sheshinski, Eytan, 1983. "Optimal tax treatment of the family: Married couples," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(3), pages 281-297, April.
  3. Choi, E. Kwan & Menezes, Carmen F., 1992. "Is relative risk aversion greater than one?," International Review of Economics & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 43-54.
  4. Nerlove, Marc & Razin, Assaf & Sadka, Efraim, 1986. "Some Welfare Theoretic Implications of Endogenous Fertility," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 27(1), pages 3-31, February.
  5. Pollak, Robert A & Wales, Terence J, 1979. "Welfare Comparisons and Equivalence Scales," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 69(2), pages 216-21, May.
  6. Mirrlees, James A., 1972. "Population policy and the taxation of family size," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 1(2), pages 169-198, August.
  7. Pechman, Joseph A. & Engelhardt, Gary V., 1990. "The Income Tax Treatment of the Family: An International Perspective," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 43(1), pages 1-22, March.
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