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A Tax Reform Analysis of the Laffer Argument

  • Alan Krause
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    This paper shows that tax reform techniques are well-suited to an examination of the Laffer argument, i.e., the possibility that an increase in a tax rate may reduce tax revenues (and vice versa). Our methodology allows us to examine the Laffer argument directly, without deriving the Laffer curve, which in turn allows us to conduct the analysis in a very general setting. Despite the high level of generality, we are able to reach some clear conclusions that provide formal support for the established intuitions that the Laffer effect requires: (i) a 'high' labour-income tax rate, and (ii) a 'large' labour supply response to wage changes. The notions of 'high' and 'large' are made precise in our framework. The analysis also provides indirect support for the intuition that it is never optimal for a government to operate on the downward-sloping segment of the Laffer curve. Finally, we show that our methods provide a theoretical framework for an empirical investigation.

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    Paper provided by Department of Economics, University of York in its series Discussion Papers with number 07/10.

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    Date of creation: May 2007
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    Handle: RePEc:yor:yorken:07/10
    Contact details of provider: Postal: Department of Economics and Related Studies, University of York, York, YO10 5DD, United Kingdom
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    Web page: http://www.york.ac.uk/economics/
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    1. Guesnerie, Roger, 1977. "On the direction of tax reform," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 7(2), pages 179-202, April.
    2. Jon Gruber & Emmanuel Saez, 2000. "The Elasticity of Taxable Income: Evidence and Implications," NBER Working Papers 7512, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Michael Keen & Christos Kotsogiannis, 2003. "Leviathan and Capital Tax Competition in Federations," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 5(2), pages 177-199, 04.
    4. Diewert, W. E., 1978. "Optimal tax perturbations," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(2), pages 139-177, October.
    5. Fleurbaey, Marc, 2006. "Is commodity taxation unfair?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(10-11), pages 1765-1787, November.
    6. Jonas Agell & Mats Persson, 2000. "On the Analytics of the Dynamic Laffer Curve," CESifo Working Paper Series 383, CESifo Group Munich.
    7. Weymark, John A., 1979. "A reconciliation of recent results in optimal taxation theory," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(2), pages 171-189, October.
    8. Guesnerie, R. & Jerison, M., 1990. "Taxation as a Social Choice Problem, the Scope of the Laffer Argument," DELTA Working Papers 90-06, DELTA (Ecole normale supérieure).
    9. Alan Krause, 2007. "Generational incidence of savings taxation versus capital-income taxation," International Journal of Economic Theory, The International Society for Economic Theory, vol. 3(2), pages 113-129.
    10. Gahvari, Firouz, 1989. "The nature of government expenditures and the shape of the laffer curve," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(2), pages 251-260, November.
    11. Hindriks, Jean, 2001. " Mobility and Redistributive Politics," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 3(1), pages 95-120.
    12. Alfonso Novales & Jesús Ruiz, 2001. "Dynamic Laffer Curves," Documentos de Trabajo del ICAE 0106, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Facultad de Ciencias Económicas y Empresariales, Instituto Complutense de Análisis Económico.
    13. Fullerton, Don, 1982. "On the possibility of an inverse relationship between tax rates and government revenues," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(1), pages 3-22, October.
    14. Blackorby, Charles & Murty, Sushama, 2006. "Unit Versus Ad Valorem Taxes : Monopoly In General Equilibrium," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 761, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
    15. Sushama Murty & R. Robert Russell, 2005. "Externality Policy Reform: A General Equilibrium Analysis," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 7(1), pages 117-150, 02.
    16. Malcomson, James M., 1986. "Some analytics of the laffer curve," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages 263-279, April.
    17. Hansson, Asa & Stuart, Charles, 2003. "Peaking of fiscal sizes of government," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 19(4), pages 669-684, November.
    18. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521629560 is not listed on IDEAS
    19. Robert Carroll & Warren Hrung, 2005. "What Does the Taxable Income Elasticity Say About Dynamic Responses to Tax Changes?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(2), pages 426-431, May.
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