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The Effect of Increased Tax Rates on Taxable Income and Economic Efficiency: A Preliminary Analysis of the 1993 Tax Rate Increases

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  • Martin Feldstein
  • Daniel Feenberg

Abstract

The 1993 tax legislation raised marginal tax rates to 36 percent from 31 percent on taxable incomes between $140,000 and $250,000 and to 39.6 percent on incomes above $250,000. This paper uses recently published IRS data on taxable incomes by adjusted gross income class to analyze how the 1993 tax rate increases affected taxable income, tax revenue, and economic efficiency. Our estimates are based on a difference-in-difference procedure comparing growth of taxable incomes among taxpayers with AGIs over $200,000 to the growth of incomes of lower income taxpayers. We use the NBER TAXSIM model to adjust for interyear differences in the composition of the two taxpayer groups. The results show that high income taxpayers would have reported 7.8 percent more taxable income in 1993 than they did if their tax rates had not increased. Because of the high threshold for the increase in tax rates, this decline in taxable income caused the Treasury to lose more than half of the extra revenue that would have been collected if taxpayers had not changed their behavior. The deadweight loss caused by the higher marginal tax rates (including the effects on labor supply and on consumption of goods and services favored by deductions and exclusions) is approximately twice as large as the $8 billion in revenue raised by the 1993 tax rate. Several possible statistical biases could cause the estimated effect of the tax changes to either underestimate or overestimate the true long-run effect. The paper concludes with a discussion of these problems and of plans for future analysis.

Suggested Citation

  • Martin Feldstein & Daniel Feenberg, 1995. "The Effect of Increased Tax Rates on Taxable Income and Economic Efficiency: A Preliminary Analysis of the 1993 Tax Rate Increases," NBER Working Papers 5370, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5370
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Nada Eissa, 1995. "Taxation and Labor Supply of Married Women: The Tax Reform Act of 1986 as a Natural Experiment," NBER Working Papers 5023, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Feldstein, Martin & Poterba, James M. (ed.), 1996. "Empirical Foundations of Household Taxation," National Bureau of Economic Research Books, University of Chicago Press, edition 1, number 9780226240978, December.
    3. Daniel R. Feenberg & James M. Poterba, 1993. "Income Inequality and the Incomes of Very High-Income Taxpayers: Evidence from Tax Returns," NBER Chapters,in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 7, pages 145-177 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Martin Feldstein, 1999. "Tax Avoidance And The Deadweight Loss Of The Income Tax," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 81(4), pages 674-680, November.
    5. Martin Feldstein, 1995. "Behavioral Responses to Tax Rates: Evidence from TRA86," NBER Working Papers 5000, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Martin Feldstein & James M. Poterba, 1996. "Empirical Foundations of Household Taxation," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number feld96-1.
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    Cited by:

    1. Neisser, Carina, 2017. "The elasticity of taxable income: A meta-regression analysis," ZEW Discussion Papers 17-032, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
    2. Todd B. Walker & Shu-Chun Susan Yang & Eric M. Leeper, 2008. "Fiscal Foresight: Analytical Issues," 2008 Meeting Papers 786, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    3. Emmanuel Saez & Joel Slemrod & Seth H. Giertz, 2012. "The Elasticity of Taxable Income with Respect to Marginal Tax Rates: A Critical Review," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 50(1), pages 3-50, March.
    4. Martin S. Feldstein, 1997. "The Costs and Benefits of Going from Low Inflation to Price Stability," NBER Chapters,in: Reducing Inflation: Motivation and Strategy, pages 123-166 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. repec:dpr:wpaper:0905 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Bull, Nicholas & Lindsey, Lawrence B., 1996. "Monetary Implications of Tax Reforms," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 49(3), pages 359-79, September.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H24 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Personal Income and Other Nonbusiness Taxes and Subsidies
    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation

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