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The political economics of redistribution, inequality and tax avoidance

  • Bethencourt, Carlos
  • Kunze, Lars

A benchmark result in the political economy of taxation is that the degree of redistribution is positively linked to income inequality. However, empirical evidence supporting such a relationship turns out to be mixed. This paper shows how these different empirical reactions can be rationalized within a simple model of tax avoidance and costly tax enforcement. By focussing on structure induced equilibria in which taxpayers vote over the size of the income tax and the level of tax enforcement, we show that higher inequality may well decrease the extent of redistribution, depending on two opposing effects: the standard political effect and a negative tax base effect working through increases in the average level of tax avoidance and the share of enforcement expenditures in total tax revenue.

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Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 51127.

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Date of creation: 31 Oct 2013
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Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:51127
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  1. Joel Slemrod & Shlomo Yitzhaki, 2000. "Tax Avoidance, Evasion, and Administration," NBER Working Papers 7473, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Conde-Ruiz, Jose Ignacio & Galasso, Vincenzo, 2005. "Positive arithmetic of the welfare state," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(5-6), pages 933-955, June.
  3. Joel Slemrod, 2007. "Cheating Ourselves: The Economics of Tax Evasion," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(1), pages 25-48, Winter.
  4. Gouveia, Miguel & Masia, Neal A, 1998. " Does the Median Voter Model Explain the Size of Government?: Evidence from the States," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 97(1-2), pages 159-77, October.
  5. Slemrod, Joel & Yitzhaki, Shlomo, 1987. " The Optimal Size of a Tax Collection Agency," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 89(2), pages 183-92.
  6. Jesper Roine, 2006. "The political economics of not paying taxes," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 126(1), pages 107-134, January.
  7. Sandmo, Agnar, 1981. "Income tax evasion, labour supply, and the equity--efficiency tradeoff," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(3), pages 265-288, December.
  8. Andreas Georgiadis & Alan Manning, 2007. "Spend it like Beckham? Inequality and redistribution in the UK, 1983-2004," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 19697, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  9. Santo Milasi, 2014. "Top Income Shares and Budget Deficits," Rivista di Politica Economica, SIPI Spa, issue 1, pages 383-406, January-M.
  10. Joel Slemrod, 1998. "A General Model of the Behavioral Response to Taxation," NBER Working Papers 6582, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Christian Bredemeier, 2010. "Imperfect Information and the Meltzer-Richard Hypothesis," Ruhr Economic Papers 0213, Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Universität Dortmund, Universität Duisburg-Essen.
  12. Joshua Aizenman & Yothin Jinjarak, 2012. "Income inequality, tax base and sovereign spreads," NBER Working Papers 18176, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Rodrik, Dani & Alesina, Alberto, 1994. "Distributive Politics and Economic Growth," Scholarly Articles 4551798, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  14. Rainald Borck, 2009. "Voting on redistribution with tax evasion," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer, vol. 32(3), pages 439-454, March.
  15. Jenny Freitas, 2012. "Inequality, the politics of redistribution and the tax mix," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 151(3), pages 611-630, June.
  16. Allan Meltzer & Scott Richard, 1983. "Tests of a rational theory of the size of government," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 41(3), pages 403-418, January.
  17. Lang, Oliver & Nohrba[ss], Karl-Heinz & Stahl, Konrad, 1997. "On income tax avoidance: the case of Germany," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 66(2), pages 327-347, November.
  18. Christian Traxler, 2009. "Majority Voting and the Welfare Implications of Tax Avoidance," Working Paper Series of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods 2009_22, Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods.
  19. Joan Esteban & Carlos Gradín & Debraj Ray, 2007. "An Extension of a Measure of Polarization, with an application to the income distribution of five OECD countries," Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer, vol. 5(1), pages 1-19, April.
  20. Slemrod, Joel, 1994. "Fixing the leak in Okun's bucket optimal tax progressivity when avoidance can be controlled," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(1), pages 41-51, September.
  21. Conde-Ruiz, J. Ignacio & Galasso, Vincenzo, 2004. "The macroeconomics of early retirement," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(9-10), pages 1849-1869, August.
  22. Lang, Oliver & Nöhrbaß, Karl-Heinz & Stahl, Konrad O., 1993. "On income tax avoidance: the case of Germany," ZEW Discussion Papers 93-05, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
  23. Slemrod, Joel, 1990. "Optimal Taxation and Optimal Tax Systems," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 4(1), pages 157-78, Winter.
  24. Persson, Torsten & Tabellini, Guido, 1994. "Is Inequality Harmful for Growth?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(3), pages 600-621, June.
  25. Christian Traxler, 2009. "Voting over taxes: the case of tax evasion," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 140(1), pages 43-58, July.
  26. Rainald Borck, 2002. "Stricter Enforcement May Increase Tax Evasion," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 297, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  27. Meltzer, Allan H & Richard, Scott F, 1981. "A Rational Theory of the Size of Government," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 914-27, October.
  28. J. Ignacio Conde-Ruiz & Vincenzo Galasso, . "Early retirement," Working Papers 2003-03, FEDEA.
  29. Bethencourt, Carlos & Galasso, Vincenzo, 2008. "Political complements in the welfare state: Health care and social security," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(3-4), pages 609-632, April.
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