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The Elasticity of Taxable Income During the 1990s: A Sensitivity Analysis

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  • Giertz, Seth

Abstract

This paper examines alternative methodologies for measuring responses to the 1990 and 1993 federal tax increases. The methodologies build on those employed by Gruber and Saez (2002), Carroll (1998) and Auten and Carroll (1999). Internal Revenue Service tax return data for the project are from the Statistics of Income, which heavily oversamples high-income filers. Special attention is paid to the importance of sample income restrictions and methodology. Estimates are broken down by income group to measure how responses to tax changes vary by income. In general, estimates are quite sensitive to a number of different factors. Using an approach similar to Carroll’s yields elasticity of taxable income (ETI) estimates as high as 0.54 and as low as 0.03, depending on the income threshold for inclusion into the sample. Gruber and Saez’s preferred specification yields estimates for the 1990s of 0.30. Yet another approach compares behavior only in the end years, before and after tax changes, and yields estimated ETIs ranging from 0 to 0.71. The results suggest tremendous variation across income groups, with people at the top of the income distribution showing the greatest responsiveness. In fact, the estimates suggest that the ETI could be greater than 1 for those at the very top of the income distribution. The major conclusion, however, is that isolating the true taxable income responses to tax changes is extremely complicated by a myriad of other factors and thus little confidence should be placed on any single estimate. Additionally, focusing on particular components of taxable income might yield more insight.

Suggested Citation

  • Giertz, Seth, 2006. "The Elasticity of Taxable Income During the 1990s: A Sensitivity Analysis," MPRA Paper 17603, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:17603
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    File URL: https://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/17603/1/MPRA_paper_17603.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Robert A. Moffitt & Mark Wilhelm, 1998. "Taxation and the Labor Supply: Decisions of the Affluent," NBER Working Papers 6621, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. 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.
    3. Gruber, Jon & Saez, Emmanuel, 2002. "The elasticity of taxable income: evidence and implications," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(1), pages 1-32, April.
    4. Slemrod, Joel & Kopczuk, Wojciech, 2002. "The optimal elasticity of taxable income," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(1), pages 91-112, April.
    5. Giertz, Seth, 2004. "Recent Literature on Taxable-Income Elasticities," MPRA Paper 16159, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. Slemrod, Joel, 1998. "Methodological Issues in Measuring and Interpreting Taxable Income Elasticities," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 51(n. 4), pages 773-88, December.
    7. 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.
    8. Giertz, Seth, 2005. "A Sensitivity Analysis of the Elasticity of Taxable Income," MPRA Paper 17601, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. Imbens, Guido W. & Lancaster, Tony, 1996. "Efficient estimation and stratified sampling," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 74(2), pages 289-318, October.
    10. Koenker,Roger, 2005. "Quantile Regression," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521845731.
    11. Slemrod, Joel, 1998. "Methodological Issues in Measuring and Interpreting Taxable Income Elasticities," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 51(4), pages 773-788, December.
    12. Emmanuel Saez & Michael R. Veall, 2005. "The Evolution of High Incomes in Northern America: Lessons from Canadian Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(3), pages 831-849, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Heim, Bradley T., 2010. "The responsiveness of self-employment income to tax rate changes," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(6), pages 940-950, December.
    2. Pirttilä, Jukka & Selin, Håkan, 2006. "How Successful is the Dual Income Tax? Evidence from the Finnish Tax Reform of 1993," Working Paper Series 2006:26, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Elasticity of Taxable Income; Behavioral Responses to Taxation; Taxation;

    JEL classification:

    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation
    • H2 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue

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