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Progressive tax-like effects of inflation: Fact or myth? The U.S. post-war experience

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  • Süssmuth, Bernd
  • Wieschemeyer, Matthias

Abstract

Inflation and earnings growth can push some tax payers into higher brackets in the absence of inflation-indexed schedules. Moreover, inflation may affect the composition of individuals' income sources. As a result, depending on the relative tax burden of labour and capital, inflation may decrease or increase the difference between before-tax and after-tax income. However, whether some and if so which percentiles of the income distribution net benefit from inflation via taxation is a widely unexplored question. We make use of a novel dataset on U.S. pre-tax and post-tax income distribution series provided by Pike ty et al. (2018) for the years 1962 to 2014 to answer this question. To this end, we estimate local projections to quantify dynamic effects. We find that inflation shocks increase progressivity of taxation not only contemporaneously but also with some repercussion of several years after the shock. While particularly the bottom two quintiles gain in share, it is not the top but the fourth quintile that lastingly loses.

Suggested Citation

  • Süssmuth, Bernd & Wieschemeyer, Matthias, 2017. "Progressive tax-like effects of inflation: Fact or myth? The U.S. post-war experience," IWH Discussion Papers 33/2017, Halle Institute for Economic Research (IWH).
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:iwhdps:332017
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Heer, Burkhard & Süssmuth, Bernd, 2013. "Tax bracket creep and its effects on income distribution," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 38(PB), pages 393-408.
    2. Christina D. Romer & David Romer, 1999. "Monetary policy and the well-being of the poor," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, issue Q I, pages 21-49.
    3. Bach, G L & Stephenson, James B, 1974. "Inflation and the Redistribution of Wealth," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 56(1), pages 1-13, February.
    4. Herwig Immervoll, 2005. "Falling Up The Stairs: The Effects Of “Bracket Creep” On Household Incomes," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 51(1), pages 37-62, March.
    5. James D. Hamilton, 2017. "Why You Should Never Use the Hodrick-Prescott Filter," NBER Working Papers 23429, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Blinder, Alan S & Esaki, Howard Y, 1978. "Macroeconomic Activity and Income Distribution in the Postwar United States," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 60(4), pages 604-609, November.
    7. Saez, Emmanuel, 2003. "The effect of marginal tax rates on income: a panel study of 'bracket creep'," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(5-6), pages 1231-1258, May.
    8. Friedrich Heinemann, 2001. "After the death of inflation: will fiscal drag survive?," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 22(4), pages 527-546., December.
    9. Edward N. Wolff, 1979. "The Distributional Effects Of The 1969–75 Inflation On Holdings Of Household Wealth In The United States," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 25(2), pages 195-207, June.
    10. repec:eee:moneco:v:88:y:2017:i:c:p:70-89 is not listed on IDEAS
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    bracket creep; progressive income taxation; inflation; income distribution;

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • E31 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Price Level; Inflation; Deflation
    • E44 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Financial Markets and the Macroeconomy
    • E52 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - Monetary Policy
    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy

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