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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. Don Fullerton & Gilbert E. Metcalf, 2001. "Tax Incidence," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0106, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
    • 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.
  2. Eric French & John Bailey Jones, 2001. "The effects of health insurance and self-insurance on retirement behavior," Working Paper Series WP-01-19, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
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  4. Erosa, Andres & Gervais, Martin, 2002. "Optimal Taxation in Life-Cycle Economies," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 105(2), pages 338-369, August.
  5. Narayana Kocherlakota & Borys Grochulski, 2007. "Nonseparable Preferences and Optimal Social Security Systems," Levine's Bibliography 843644000000000156, UCLA Department of Economics.
  6. 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.
  7. Mikhail Golosov & Narayana Kocherlakota & Aleh Tsyvinski, 2002. "Optimal Indirect and Capital Taxation," Levine's Working Paper Archive 391749000000000449, David K. Levine.
  8. Conesa, Juan Carlos & Krueger, Dirk, 2005. "On the optimal progressivity of the income tax code," CFS Working Paper Series 2005/10, Center for Financial Studies (CFS).
  9. Narayana R. Kocherlakota, 2003. "Zero Expected Wealth Taxes: A Mirrlees Approach to Dynamic Optimal Taxation," Levine's Bibliography 666156000000000426, UCLA Department of Economics.
  10. Nezih Guner, 2011. "Taxing Women: A Macroeconomic Analysis," 2011 Meeting Papers 581, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  11. 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.
  12. Rogerson, Richard & Wallenius, Johanna, 2009. "Micro and macro elasticities in a life cycle model with taxes," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 144(6), pages 2277-2292, November.
  13. Lucas, Robert Jr. & Stokey, Nancy L., 1983. "Optimal fiscal and monetary policy in an economy without capital," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(1), pages 55-93.
  14. Gervais, Martin, 2012. "On the optimality of age-dependent taxes and the progressive U.S. tax system," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 36(4), pages 682-691.
  15. Matthew Weinzierl, 2011. "The Surprising Power of Age-Dependent Taxes," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 78(4), pages 1490-1518.
  16. Henrik Jacobsen Kleven & Claus Thustrup Kreiner & Emmanuel Saez, 2006. "The Optimal Income Taxation of Couples," NBER Working Papers 12685, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. 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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  19. Diamond, P., 1980. "Income taxation with fixed hours of work," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(1), pages 101-110, February.
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  21. 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.
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  23. 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.
  24. Varian, Hal R., 1980. "Redistributive taxation as social insurance," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(1), pages 49-68, August.
  25. 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.
  26. 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.
  27. J. A. Mirrlees, 1976. "Optimal Tax Theory: A Synthesis," Working papers 176, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
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