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Measuring Revenue-Maximising Elasticities of Taxable Income: Evidence for the US Income Tax


  • Creedy, John
  • Gemmell, Norman


A recent review of empirical estimates of the elasticity of taxable income (ETI) concluded that ‘the US marginal top rate is far from the top of the Laffer curve’ (Saez et al, 2012, p.42). This paper provides a detailed examination of the analysis underlying this conclusion, and considers whether other tax rates in the US income tax system are on the ‘right’ side of the Laffer curve. Conceptual expressions for ‘Laffer-maximum’ or revenue-maximizing ETIs, based on readily observable parameters, are presented for individuals and groups of taxpayers in a multi-rate income tax system. Applying these to the US income tax in 2005, with its complex effective marginal rate structure, demonstrates that a wide range of revenue-maximizing ETI values can be expected for individual taxpayers within and across tax brackets, and in aggregate. For many taxpayers these revenue-maximizing ETIs are well within the range of empirically estimated elasticities.

Suggested Citation

  • Creedy, John & Gemmell, Norman, 2014. "Measuring Revenue-Maximising Elasticities of Taxable Income: Evidence for the US Income Tax," Working Paper Series 3137, Victoria University of Wellington, Chair in Public Finance.
  • Handle: RePEc:vuw:vuwcpf:3137

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Koen Caminada & Kees Goudswaard, 1996. "Progression and revenue effects of income tax reform," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 3(1), pages 57-66, January.
    2. Adam Wagstaff & Eddy van Doorslaer, 2001. "What Makes the Personal Income Tax Progressive? A Comparative Analysis for Fifteen OECD Countries," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 8(3), pages 299-316, May.
    3. Emmanuel Saez & Joel Slemrod & Seth H. Giertz, 2012. "The Elasticity of Taxable Income with Respect to Marginal Tax Rates: A Critical Review," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 50(1), pages 3-50, March.
    4. Creedy, John & Gemmell, Norman, 2002. " The Built-In Flexibility of Income and Consumption Taxes," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 16(4), pages 509-532, September.
    5. Reed, W. Robert & Rogers, Cynthia L & Skidmore, Mark, 2011. "On Estimating Marginal Tax Rates for U.S. States," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 64(1), pages 59-84, March.
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    Income tax revenue; Revenue elasticity; Laffer Curve;

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