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Regression Estimates of the Elasticity of Taxable Income and the Choice of Instrument


  • Simon Carey
  • John Creedy
  • Norman Gemmell
  • Josh Teng

    () (The Treasury)


This paper examines estimation of the elasticity of taxable income using instrumental variable regression methods. It is argued that the standard instrument for the net-of-tax rate - the rate that would be applicable post-reform but with unchanged income levels - is unsatisfactory in contexts where there are substantial exogenous changes in taxable income. Two alternative tax rate instruments are proposed, using estimates of the dynamics of taxable income for a panel of taxpayers over a period that involves no tax changes. The parameters derived from this procedure are then used to construct counterfactual post-reform incomes that would be expected in the absence of reform. The first method is based on the tax rate each individual would face if income were equal to expected income, conditional on income in two periods before the tax change. The second alternative uses the form of the conditional distribution of income for each taxpayer to obtain an instrument based on the expected tax rate. The methods are applied to the tax change in New Zealand in 2001. It is found that the proposed new instruments significantly outperform the standard instrument, in particular there are substantial improvements using the expected tax rate.

Suggested Citation

  • Simon Carey & John Creedy & Norman Gemmell & Josh Teng, 2013. "Regression Estimates of the Elasticity of Taxable Income and the Choice of Instrument," Treasury Working Paper Series 13/08, New Zealand Treasury.
  • Handle: RePEc:nzt:nztwps:13/08

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Peter Diamond & Emmanuel Saez, 2011. "The Case for a Progressive Tax: From Basic Research to Policy Recommendations," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(4), pages 165-190, Fall.
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    5. Weber, Caroline E., 2014. "Toward obtaining a consistent estimate of the elasticity of taxable income using difference-in-differences," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 117(C), pages 90-103.
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    7. Austan Goolsbee, 1999. "Evidence on the High-Income Laffer Curve from Six Decades of Tax Reform," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 30(2), pages 1-64.
    8. Austan Goolsbee, 2000. "What Happens When You Tax the Rich? Evidence from Executive Compensation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(2), pages 352-378, April.
    9. Iris Claus & John Creedy & Josh Teng, 2012. "The Elasticity of Taxable Income in New Zealand," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 33(3), pages 287-303, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Arrazola, María & de Hevia, José & Romero, Desiderio & Sanz-Sanz, José Félix, 2014. "Personal Income Tax Reforms and the Elasticity of Reported Income to Marginal Tax Rates: An Empirical Analysis Applied to Spain," Working Paper Series 3593, Victoria University of Wellington, Chair in Public Finance.

    More about this item


    Income taxation; taxable income; elasticity of taxable income; instrumental variables; tax rate instruments.;

    JEL classification:

    • H24 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Personal Income and Other Nonbusiness Taxes and Subsidies
    • H31 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Household


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