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Household bargaining and the design of couples’ income taxation

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  • Cremer, Helmuth
  • Lozachmeur, Jean-Marie
  • Maldonado, Dario
  • Roeder, Kerstin

Abstract

This paper studies the design of couples’ income taxation when consumption and labor supply decisions within the couple are made by maximizing a weighted sum of the spouses’ utilities; bargaining weights are given but specific to each couple. Information structure and labor supply decisions follow the Mirrleesian tradition. However, while the household’s total consumption is publicly observable, the consumption levels of the individual spouses are not observable. With a utilitarian social welfare function we show that the expression for a spouses’ marginal income tax rate includes a “Pigouvian” (paternalistic) and an incentive term. The Pigouvian term favors a marginal subsidy (tax) for the high-weight (low-weight) spouse, whose labor supply otherwise tends to be too low (high). The sign and the magnitude of the incentive term depends on the weight structure across couples. In some cases both terms have the same sign and imply a positive marginal tax for the low-weight spouse (who may be female) and a negative one for the high-weight spouse (possibly the male). This is at odds with the traditional Boskin and Sheshinski results. Our conclusions can easily be generalized to more egalitarian welfare functions. Finally, we present numerical simulations based on a calibrated specification of our model. The calculations confirm that the male spouse may well have the lower (and possibly even negative) marginal tax rate.

Suggested Citation

  • Cremer, Helmuth & Lozachmeur, Jean-Marie & Maldonado, Dario & Roeder, Kerstin, 2015. "Household bargaining and the design of couples’ income taxation," TSE Working Papers 15-554, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE).
  • Handle: RePEc:tse:wpaper:29001
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Cremer, Helmuth & Lozachmeur, Jean-Marie & Roeder, Kerstin, 2017. "Household bargaining, spouses' consumption patterns and the design of commodity taxes," TSE Working Papers 17-767, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE).
    2. Francesca Barigozzi & Helmuth Cremer & Kerstin Roeder, 2017. "Until Taxes Do Us Part: Tax Penalties or Bonuses and the Marriage Decision," CESifo Working Paper Series 6740, CESifo Group Munich.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Couples’ income taxation; household bargaining; optimal income taxation; household labor supply;

    JEL classification:

    • D10 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - General
    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation
    • H31 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Household

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