This paper estimates the dynamic effects of changes in taxes in the United States. We distinguish between changes in personal and corporate income taxes and develop a new narrative account of federal tax liability changes in these two tax components. We develop an estimator which uses narratively identified tax changes as proxies for structural tax shocks and apply it to quarterly post-WWII data. We find that short run output effects of tax shocks are large and that it is important to distinguish between different types of taxes when considering their impact on the labor market and on expenditure components.
No government can announce a tax system and then rely on taxpayers' sense of duty to remit what is owed. Some dutiful people will undoubtedly pay what they owe, but many others will not. Over time the ranks of the dutiful will shrink, as they see how they are being taken advantage of by the others. Thus, paying taxes must be made a legal responsibility of citizens, with penalties attendant on noncompliance. But even in the face of those penalties, substantial tax evasion exists. Tax evasion is widespread, always has been, and probably always will be. This essay reviews what is known about the magnitude, nature, and determinants of tax evasion, with an emphasis on the U.S. income tax. It then places this information into a conceptual context, examining various models and theories, and considers policy implications.
In this paper we propose a novel theoretical model of tax competition at the local level. Large jurisdictions (cities) compete both locally with smaller neighbouring communities and interregionally with more distant cities, while small jurisdictions (hinterlands) compete only with other jurisdictions in their neighbourhood. The model structure is motivated by recent empirical findings as well as survey results among German mayors: the perceived intensity of competition for firms varies considerably between jurisdictions and can mainly be explained by the size and location of the jurisdiction. Our model predicts – contrary to earlier findings for competition between countries or regions – that capital taxes of large jurisdictions fall more strongly with increasing interregional competition and may eventually lead to smaller taxes than in small jurisdictions. Hinterlands are therefore less affected from globalisation than cities. We contrast our results with a standard tax competition model in which all jurisdictions compete with all other jurisdictions.
There is an apparent disconnect between much of the academic literature on tax compliance and the administration of tax policy. In the benchmark economic model, the key policy parameters affecting tax evasion are the tax rate, the detection probability, and the penalty imposed conditional on the evasion being detected. Meanwhile, tax administrators also tend to place a great deal of emphasis on the importance of improving "tax morale," by which they generally mean increasing voluntary compliance with tax laws and creating a social norm of compliance. We will define tax morale broadly to include nonpecuniary motivations for tax compliance as well as factors that fall outside the standard, expected utility framework. Tax morale does indeed appear to be an important component of compliance decisions. We demonstrate that tax morale operates through a variety of underlying mechanisms, drawing on evidence from laboratory studies, natural experiments, and an emerging literature employing randomized field experiments. We consider the implications for tax policy and attempt to understand why recent interventions designed to improve morale, and thereby compliance, have had mixed results to date.
We develop and describe a new measure of long-run corporate tax avoidance that is based on the ability to pay a low amount of cash taxes per dollar of pre-tax earnings over long time periods. We label this measure the "long-run cash effective tax rate." We use the long-run cash effective tax rate to examine (1) the extent to which some firms are able to avoid taxes over periods as long as ten years, and (2) how predictive one-year tax rates are for long-run tax avoidance. In our sample of 2,077 firms, we find there is considerable cross-sectional variation in tax avoidance. For example, approximately one-fourth of our sample firms are able to maintain long-run cash effective tax rates below 20 percent, compared to a sample mean tax rate of approximately 30 percent. We also find that annual cash effective tax rates are not very good predictors of long-run cash effective tax rates and, thus, are not accurate proxies for long-run tax avoidance. While there is some evidence of persistence in annual cash effective tax rates, the persistence is asymmetric. Low annual cash effective tax rates are more persistent than are high annual cash effective tax rates. An initial examination of characteristics of firms successful at keeping their cash effective tax rates low over long periods shows that they are well spread across industries but with some clustering.
This paper provides estimates of federal tax rates by income groups in the United States since 1960, with special emphasis on very top income groups. We include individual and corporate income taxes, payroll taxes, and estate and gift taxes. The progressivity of the U.S. federal tax system at the top of the income distribution has declined dramatically since the 1960s. This dramatic drop in progressivity is due primarily to a drop in corporate taxes and in estate and gift taxes combined with a sharp change in the composition of top incomes away from capital income and toward labor income. The sharp drop in statutory top marginal individual income tax rates has contributed only moderately to the decline in tax progressivity. International comparisons confirm that is it critical to take into account other taxes than the individual income tax to properly assess the extent of overall tax progressivity, both for time trends and for cross-country comparisons. The pattern for the United Kingdom is similar to the U.S. pattern. France had less progressive taxes than the United States or the United Kingdom in 1970 but has experienced an increase in tax progressivity and has now a more progressive tax system than the United States or the United Kingdom.
In this paper, we present a review of tax research. We survey four main areas of the literature: (1) the informational role of income tax expense reported for financial accounting, (2) corporate tax avoidance, (3) corporate decision-making including investment, capital structure, and organizational form, and (4) taxes and asset pricing. We summarize the research areas and questions examined to date and what we have learned or not learned from the work completed thus far. In addition, we provide our opinion as to the interesting and important issues for future research.
This paper critically surveys the large and growing literature estimating the elasticity of taxable income with respect to marginal tax rates using tax return data. First, we provide a theoretical framework showing under what assumptions this elasticity can be used as a sufficient statistic for efficiency and optimal tax analysis. We discuss what other parameters should be estimated when the elasticity is not a sufficient statistic. Second, we discuss conceptually the key issues that arise in the empirical estimation of the elasticity of taxable income using the example of the 1993 top individual income tax rate increase in the United States to illustrate those issues. Third, we provide a critical discussion of selected empirical analyses of the elasticity of taxable income in light of the theoretical and empirical framework we laid out. Finally, we discuss avenues for future research.
We quantitatively characterize the optimal capital and labor income tax in an overlapping generations model with idiosyncratic, uninsurable income shocks and permanent productivity differences of households. The optimal capital income tax rate is significantly positive at 36 percent. The optimal progressive labor income tax is, roughly, a flat tax of 23 percent with a deduction of $7,200 (relative to average household income of $42,000). The high optimal capital income tax is mainly driven by the life-cycle structure of the model, whereas the optimal progressivity of the labor income tax is attributable to the insurance and redistribution role of the tax system.