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Optimal taxation under different concepts of justness

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  • Jessen, Robin
  • Metzing, Maria
  • Rostam-Afschar, Davud

Abstract

A common assumption in the optimal taxation literature is that the social planner maximizes a welfarist social welfare function with weights decreasing with income. However, high transfer withdrawal rates in many countries imply very low weights for the working poor in practice. We reconcile this puzzle by generalizing the optimal taxation framework by Saez (2002) to allow for alternatives to welfarism. We calculate weights of a social planner's function as implied by the German tax and transfer system based on the concepts of welfarism, minimum absolute and relative sacrifice, as well as subjective justness. For the latter we use a novel question from the German Socio-Economic Panel. We find that the minimum absolute sacrifice principle is in line with social weights that decline with net income. Absolute subjective justness is roughly in line with decreasing social weights, which is reflected by preferences of men, West Germans, and supporters of the grand coalition parties.

Suggested Citation

  • Jessen, Robin & Metzing, Maria & Rostam-Afschar, Davud, 2017. "Optimal taxation under different concepts of justness," Discussion Papers 2017/26, Free University Berlin, School of Business & Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:fubsbe:201726
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    1. Olivier Bargain & Mathias Dolls & Dirk Neumann & Andreas Peichl & Sebastian Siegloch, 2014. "Comparing inequality aversion across countries when labor supply responses differ," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 21(5), pages 845-873, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Fischer, Benjamin & Jessen, Robin & Steiner, Viktor, 2019. "Work incentives and the cost of redistribution via tax-transfer reforms under constrained labor supply," Discussion Papers 2019/10, Free University Berlin, School of Business & Economics.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Justness; Optimal Taxation; Income Redistribution; Equal Sacrifice; Inequality; Subjective Preferences;

    JEL classification:

    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • D60 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - General
    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation
    • H23 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Externalities; Redistributive Effects; Environmental Taxes and Subsidies
    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs

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