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Optimal Dynamic Nonlinear Income Taxes with No Commitment

  • Marcus Berliant

    (Washington University in St. Louis)

  • John Ledyard

    (California Institute of Technology)

We wish to study optimal dynamic nonlinear income taxes. Do real world taxes share some of their features? What policy prescriptions can be made? We study a two period model, where the consumers and government each have separate budget constraints in the two periods, so income cannot be transferred between periods. Labor supply in both periods is chosen by the consumers. The government has memory, so taxes in the first period are a function of first period labor income, while taxes in the second period are a function of both first and second period labor income. The government cannot commit to future taxes. Time consistency is thus imposed as a requirement. The main results of the paper show that time consistent incentive compatible two period taxes involve separation of types in the first period and a differentiated lump sum tax in the second period, provided that the discount rate is high or utility is separable between labor and consumption. In the natural extension of the Diamond (1998) model with quasi-linear utility functions to two periods, an equivalence of dynamic and static optimal taxes is demonstrated, and a necessary condition for the top marginal tax rate on first period income is found.

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Paper provided by EconWPA in its series Public Economics with number 0403004.

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Length: 28 pages
Date of creation: 19 Mar 2004
Date of revision: 21 Jun 2005
Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwppe:0403004
Note: Type of Document - pdf; pages: 28
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://econwpa.repec.org

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  1. Stefania Albanesi & Christopher Sleet, 2006. "Dynamic Optimal Taxation with Private Information," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 73(1), pages 1-30.
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  3. Marek Kapicka, 2006. "Optimal Income Taxation with Human Capital Accumulation and Limited Record Keeping," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 9(4), pages 612-639, October.
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  11. Benhabib, J. & Rustichini, A., 1996. "Optimal Taxes Without Commitment," Working Papers 96-18, C.V. Starr Center for Applied Economics, New York University.
  12. Doepke, Matthias & Townsend, Robert M, 2004. "Dynamic Mechanism Design with Hidden Income and Hidden Auctions," CEPR Discussion Papers 4455, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  13. Roberts, Kevin, 1984. "The Theoretical Limits of Redistribution," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 51(2), pages 177-95, April.
  14. Narayana R. Kocherlakota, 2003. "Zero Expected Wealth Taxes: A Mirrlees Approach to Dynamic Optimal Taxation," Levine's Bibliography 666156000000000426, UCLA Department of Economics.
  15. Seade, J. K., 1977. "On the shape of optimal tax schedules," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 7(2), pages 203-235, April.
  16. Dillen, Mats & Lundholm, Michael, 1996. "Dynamic income taxation, redistribution, and the ratchet effect," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(1), pages 69-93, January.
  17. Berliant, Marcus & Page, Frank H, Jr, 2001. "Income Taxes and the Provision of Public Goods: Existence of an Optimum," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 69(3), pages 771-84, May.
  18. Krusell, Per & Quadrini, Vincenzo & Rios-Rull, Jose-Victor, 1997. "Politico-economic equilibrium and economic growth," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 21(1), pages 243-272, January.
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