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Optimal Taxation Over the Life Cycle

  • Aspen Gorry

    (University of Chicago)

  • Ezra Oberfield

    (University of Chicago)

We derive the optimal income tax schedule for a life cycle labor supply model in which productivity varies exogenously and deterministically. Individuals choose whether and how much to work at each date. The government must finance a given expenditure and does not have access to lump sum taxation. We solve the model using an implementability constraint as in Lucas and Stokey (1983). The average tax rate determines when an individual will work while the marginal tax rate determines how much she will work. In this framework, the optimal tax schedule is progressive (the average tax rate is increasing) at low levels of income, even in the absence of redistributive concerns. Moreover, in contrast to the optimal taxation literature following Mirrlees (1971), the marginal tax rate at the top is strictly positive.

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Paper provided by Society for Economic Dynamics in its series 2009 Meeting Papers with number 536.

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Date of creation: 2009
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Handle: RePEc:red:sed009:536
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  1. Mikhail Golosov & Narayana Kocherlakota & Aleh Tsyvinski, 2002. "Optimal Indirect and Capital Taxation," Levine's Working Paper Archive 391749000000000449, David K. Levine.
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  3. Richard Rogerson & Johanna Wallenius, 2007. "Micro and Macro Elasticities in a Life Cycle Model With Taxes," NBER Working Papers 13017, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  5. Conesa, Juan Carlos & Krueger, Dirk, 2006. "On the optimal progressivity of the income tax code," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(7), pages 1425-1450, October.
  6. J. A. Mirrlees, 1976. "Optimal Tax Theory: A Synthesis," Working papers 176, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  7. Guner, Nezih & Kaygusuz, Remzi & Ventura, Gustavo, 2012. "Taxing women: A macroeconomic analysis," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(1), pages 111-128.
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  11. Guner, Nezih & Kaygusuz, Remzi & Ventura, Gustavo, 2011. "Income Taxation of U.S. Households: Basic Facts," IZA Discussion Papers 5549, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  12. Tuomala, Matti, 1984. "On the optimal income taxation : Some further numerical results," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(3), pages 351-366, April.
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  14. Robert E. Lucas Jr. & Nancy L. Stokey, 1982. "Optimal Fiscal and Monetary Policy in an Economy Without Capital," Discussion Papers 532, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
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  17. Mikhail Golosov & Aleh Tsyvinski & Ivan Werning, 2007. "New Dynamic Public Finance: A User's Guide," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2006, Volume 21, pages 317-388 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Narayana Kocherlakota, 2004. "Zero Expected Wealth Taxes: A Mirrlees Approach to Dynamic Optimal Taxation," Levine's Bibliography 122247000000000729, UCLA Department of Economics.
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  22. Emmanuel Saez, 2000. "Optimal Income Transfer Programs: Intensive Versus Extensive Labor Supply Responses," NBER Working Papers 7708, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  23. Matthew Weinzierl, 2011. "The Surprising Power of Age-Dependent Taxes," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 78(4), pages 1490-1518.
  24. Gervais, Martin, 2009. "On the optimality of age-dependent taxes and the progressive U.S. tax system," Discussion Paper Series In Economics And Econometrics 0905, Economics Division, School of Social Sciences, University of Southampton.
  25. Kleven, Henrik & Kreiner, Claus Thustrup & Saez, Emmanuel, 2006. "The Optimal Income Taxation of Couples," CEPR Discussion Papers 5978, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  26. Mirrlees, James A, 1971. "An Exploration in the Theory of Optimum Income Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 38(114), pages 175-208, April.
  27. Oswald, Andrew J., 1983. "Altruism, jealousy and the theory of optimal non-linear taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(1), pages 77-87, February.
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