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On the optimality of age-dependent taxes and the progressive U.S. tax system

  • Gervais, Martin

In life-cycle economies, where an individual's optimal consumption-work plan is almost never constant, the optimal marginal tax rates on capital and labor income vary with age. Conversely, the progressivity imbedded in the U.S. tax code implies that marginal tax rates vary with age because tax rates vary with earnings and earnings vary with age. Using numerical simulations, this paper shows that if the tax authority is prevented from conditioning tax rates on age, some degree of progressivity is desirable as progressive taxation better imitates optimal age-dependent taxes than an optimal age-independent tax system. This role for progressive taxation emanates from efficiency reasons and does not rely on any insurance nor re-distribution arguments Keywords; progressive taxation, optimal taxation, life-cycle

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Paper provided by Economics Division, School of Social Sciences, University of Southampton in its series Discussion Paper Series In Economics And Econometrics with number 0905.

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Date of creation: 01 Jan 2009
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Handle: RePEc:stn:sotoec:0905
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  1. Erosa, Andres & Gervais, Martin, 2002. "Optimal Taxation in Life-Cycle Economies," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 105(2), pages 338-369, August.
  2. V. V. Chari & Patrick J. Kehoe, 1998. "Optimal fiscal and monetary policy," Staff Report 251, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  3. Juan Carlos Conesa & Dirk Krueger, 2002. "On the Optimal Progressivity of the Income Tax Code," Centro de Alti­simos Estudios Ri­os Pe©rez(CAERP) 4, Centro de Altisimos Estudios Rios Perez (CAERP).
  4. Sarte, Pierre-Daniel G., 1997. "Progressive taxation and income inequality in dynamic competitive equilibrium," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 66(1), pages 145-171, October.
  5. Andrew Atkeson & V.V. Chari & Patrick J. Kehoe, 1999. "Taxing capital income: a bad idea," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Sum, pages 3-17.
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  7. Juan Carlos Conesa & Sagiri Kitao & Dirk Krueger, 2009. "Taxing Capital? Not a Bad Idea after All!," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(1), pages 25-48, March.
  8. Erosa, Andres & Koreshkova, Tatyana, 2007. "Progressive taxation in a dynastic model of human capital," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(3), pages 667-685, April.
  9. Hansen, G.D., 1991. "The Cyclical and Secular Behavior of the Labor Input : Comparing Efficiency Units and Hours Worked," Papers 36, California Los Angeles - Applied Econometrics.
  10. Daniel Feenberg & Elisabeth Coutts, 1993. "An introduction to the TAXSIM model," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 12(1), pages 189-194.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. Andres Erosa & Martin Gervais, 2001. "Optimal taxation in infinitely-lived agent and overlapping generations models : a review," Economic Quarterly, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, issue Spr, pages 23-44.
  14. Ana Castaneda & Javier Diaz-Gimenez & Jose-Victor Rios-Rull, 2003. "Accounting for the U.S. Earnings and Wealth Inequality," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 111(4), pages 818-857, August.
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