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Is A Value Added Tax Progressive? Annual Versus Lifetime Incidence Measures

  • Erik Caspersen
  • Gilbert Metcalf

We measure the lifetime incidence of a value added tax (V AT) using income data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) and consumption data from the Consumer Expenditure Survey (CEX). When annual income is used as a measure of economic well-being, a VAT looks quite regressive. However, the results change significantly when the analysis is done using lifetime income. Using two different measures of lifetime income, we find that a VAT in the United States would be proportional to slightly progressive over the lifetime.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 4387.

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Date of creation: Jun 1993
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as National Tax Journal, 47 (1994): pp. 731-746
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:4387
Note: PE
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  1. Suits, Daniel B, 1977. "Measurement of Tax Progressivity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(4), pages 747-52, September.
  2. James M. Poterba, 1989. "Lifetime Incidence and the Distributional Burden of Excise Taxes," NBER Working Papers 2833, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Angrist, Joshua D & Krueger, Alan B, 1991. "Does Compulsory School Attendance Affect Schooling and Earnings?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 106(4), pages 979-1014, November.
  4. Abowd, John M & Card, David, 1989. "On the Covariance Structure of Earnings and Hours Changes," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(2), pages 411-45, March.
  5. Lee A. Lillard, 1975. "Inequality: Earnings vs. Human Wealth," NBER Working Papers 0080, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  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. Brashares, Edith & Speyrer, Janet Furman & Carlson, George N., 1988. "Distributional Aspects of a Federal Value-Added Tax," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 41(2), pages 155-74, June.
  8. Eden, Benjamin & Pakes, Ariel, 1981. "On Measuring the Variance-Age Profile of Lifetime Earnings," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 48(3), pages 385-94, July.
  9. Poterba, J.M., 1990. "Is The Gasoline Tax Regressive?," Working papers 568, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  10. Griliches, Zvi, 1977. "Estimating the Returns to Schooling: Some Econometric Problems," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 45(1), pages 1-22, January.
  11. Parsons, Donald O, 1978. "The Autocorrelation of Earnings, Human Wealth Inequality, and Income Contingent Loans," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 92(4), pages 551-69, November.
  12. David M. Cutler & Lawrence F. Katz, 1991. "Macroeconomic Performance and the Disadvantaged," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 22(2), pages 1-74.
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