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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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Society for Economic Dynamics Marina Azzimonti Department of Economics Stonybrook University 10 Nicolls Road Stonybrook NY 11790 USA

Web page: http://www.EconomicDynamics.org/
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  1. Narayana R. Kocherlakota, 2005. "Zero Expected Wealth Taxes: A Mirrlees Approach to Dynamic Optimal Taxation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 73(5), pages 1587-1621, 09.
  2. John Bailey Jones & Eric French, 2010. "The Effects of Health Insurance and Self-Insurance on Retirement Behavior," Discussion Papers 10-10, University at Albany, SUNY, Department of Economics.
  3. Nezih Guner, 2011. "Taxing Women: A Macroeconomic Analysis," 2011 Meeting Papers 581, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  4. 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.
  5. Alesina, Alberto F & Ichino, Andrea & Karabarbounis, Loukas, 2007. "Gender Based Taxation and the Division of Family Chores," CEPR Discussion Papers 6591, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. Mikhail Golosov & Narayana Kocherlakota & Aleh Tsyvinski, 2003. "Optimal Indirect and Capital Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 70(3), pages 569-587.
  7. Conesa, Juan Carlos & Krueger, Dirk, 2005. "On the Optimal Progressivity of the Income Tax Code," CEPR Discussion Papers 5040, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  8. Narayana Kocherlakota & Borys Grochulski, 2007. "Nonseparable Preferences and Optimal Social Security systems," Working Papers 2007-1, University of Minnesota, Department of Economics, revised 14 Aug 2007.
  9. Matthew Weinzierl, 2011. "The Surprising Power of Age-Dependent Taxes," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 78(4), pages 1490-1518.
  10. 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.
  11. Gouveia, Miguel & Strauss, Robert P., 1994. "Effective Federal Individual Tax Functions: An Exploratory Empirical Analysis," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 47(2), pages 317-39, June.
  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.
  13. Emmanuel Saez, 2002. "Optimal Income Transfer Programs: Intensive versus Extensive Labor Supply Responses," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(3), pages 1039-1073.
  14. J. A. Mirrlees, 1971. "An Exploration in the Theory of Optimum Income Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 38(2), pages 175-208.
  15. Erosa, Andres & Gervais, Martin, 2002. "Optimal Taxation in Life-Cycle Economies," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 105(2), pages 338-369, August.
  16. 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.
  17. repec:oup:restud:v:38:y:1971:i:114:p:175-208 is not listed on IDEAS
  18. Don Fullerton & Gilbert E. Metcalf, 2002. "Tax Incidence," NBER Working Papers 8829, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    • Fullerton, Don & Metcalf, Gilbert E., 2002. "Tax incidence," Handbook of Public Economics, in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 26, pages 1787-1872 Elsevier.
  19. Mirrlees, J. A., 1976. "Optimal tax theory : A synthesis," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(4), pages 327-358, November.
  20. Casey B. Mulligan, 2001. "Aggregate Implications of Indivisible Labor," NBER Working Papers 8159, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  21. Hansen, G D, 1993. "The Cyclical and Secular Behaviour of the Labour Input: Comparing Efficiency Units and Hours Worked," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 8(1), pages 71-80, Jan.-Marc.
  22. 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.
  23. 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.
  24. Diamond, P., 1980. "Income taxation with fixed hours of work," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(1), pages 101-110, February.
  25. Varian, Hal R., 1980. "Redistributive taxation as social insurance," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(1), pages 49-68, August.
  26. Kleven, Henrik & Kreiner, Claus Thustrup & Saez, Emmanuel, 2006. "The Optimal Income Taxation of Couples," CEPR Discussion Papers 5978, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  27. repec:oup:restud:v:78:y::i:4:p:1490-1518 is not listed on IDEAS
  28. 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).
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