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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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  2. J. Ignacio Conde-Ruiz & Vincenzo Galasso, . "Positive Arithmetic of the Welfare State," Working Papers 2003-04, FEDEA.
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  4. 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.
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  8. Joshua Aizenman & Yothin Jinjarak, 2012. "Income inequality, tax base and sovereign spreads," NBER Working Papers 18176, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Joel Slemrod, 2007. "Cheating Ourselves: The Economics of Tax Evasion," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(1), pages 25-48, Winter.
  10. Traxler, Christian, 2006. "Voting over Taxes: The Case of Tax Evasion," Discussion Papers in Economics 1188, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  11. 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.
  12. Rainald Borck, 2009. "Voting on redistribution with tax evasion," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer, vol. 32(3), pages 439-454, March.
  13. Joel Slemrod & Shlomo Yitzhaki, 1985. "The Optimal Size of a Tax Collection Agency," NBER Working Papers 1759, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Joel Slemrod, 1989. "Optimal Taxation and Optimal Tax Systems," NBER Working Papers 3038, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. Andreas Georgiadis & Alan Manning, 2007. "Spend It Like Beckham? Inequality and Redistribution in the UK, 1983-2004," CEP Discussion Papers dp0816, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  19. Joel Slemrod & Shlomo Yitzhaki, 2000. "Tax Avoidance, Evasion, and Administration," NBER Working Papers 7473, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  20. Roine, Jesper, 2003. "The political economics of not paying taxes," SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance 530, Stockholm School of Economics.
  21. Alesina, Alberto & Rodrik, Dani, 1994. "Distributive Politics and Economic Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 109(2), pages 465-90, May.
  22. 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.
  23. Santo Milasi, 2012. "Top Income Shares and Budget Deficits," CEIS Research Paper 249, Tor Vergata University, CEIS, revised 08 Aug 2013.
  24. Traxler, Christian, 2012. "Majority voting and the welfare implications of tax avoidance," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(1), pages 1-9.
  25. 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.
  26. Jenny Freitas, 2012. "Inequality, the politics of redistribution and the tax mix," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 151(3), pages 611-630, June.
  27. Borck, Rainald, 2004. "Stricter enforcement may increase tax evasion," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 20(3), pages 725-737, September.
  28. 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.
  29. 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.
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