Does a Simpler Income Tax Yield More Equity and Efficiency?

Posted: 6 May 2009

See all articles by Clemens Fuest

Clemens Fuest

ifo Institute – Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich; Ludwig-Maximilians-University, Munich; Center for Economic Studies (CES)

Andreas Peichl

ZEW – Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research; University of Mannheim - School of Economics (VWL); IZA Institute of Labor Economics; University of Essex - Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER)

Thilo Schaefer

Institut der deutschen Wirtschaft Köln

Date Written: March 2008

Abstract

This article investigates the impact of tax simplification on various indicators of the efficiency of the tax system and on the distribution of income. The analysis is based on a simulation model (FiFoSiM) using German income tax and household survey microdata. We model tax simplification as the abolition of a set of deductions from the income tax base. We find that this form of tax base simplification leads to a reduction in the use of professional tax advice, a more equitable income distribution and an increase in tax revenue. If this is combined with a reduction of income tax rates to preserve revenue neutrality, the effects depend on the type of rate schedule adjustment. The combination with a flat rate tax increases income inequality at the expense of the middle class, but it also leads to efficiency gains because tax distortions of labour supply are reduced. The combination with a rate schedule adjustment, which preserves the directly progressive schedule reduces inequality but increases overall tax distortions. We conclude that the effects of tax base simplification on after tax income inequality and tax distortions mainly depend on the type of tax schedule adjustment.

Keywords: Flat tax, income tax reform, tax simplification

JEL Classification: D3, H2, J22

Suggested Citation

Fuest, Clemens and Peichl, Andreas and Schaefer, Thilo, Does a Simpler Income Tax Yield More Equity and Efficiency? (March 2008). CESifo Economic Studies, Vol. 54, Issue 1, pp. 73-97, 2008. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1397459 or http://dx.doi.org/ifn003

Clemens Fuest (Contact Author)

ifo Institute – Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE 81679
Germany
++89-9224-1430 (Phone)

Ludwig-Maximilians-University, Munich ( email )

Schackstrasse 4 / II
Munich, DE 80539
Germany

Center for Economic Studies (CES) ( email )

Schackstr. 4
Munich, DE 80539
Germany
++89 2180-2748 (Phone)
++89 2180-17845 (Fax)

Andreas Peichl

ZEW – Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research ( email )

P.O. Box 10 34 43
L 7,1
D-68034 Mannheim, 68034
Germany

University of Mannheim - School of Economics (VWL) ( email )

Mannheim 68131
Germany

IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

University of Essex - Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER)

Wivenhoe Park
Colchester CO4 3SQ
United Kingdom

Thilo Schaefer

Institut der deutschen Wirtschaft Köln ( email )

50668 Koeln
Germany

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