How Should Commodities Be Taxed? A Counterargument to the Recommendation in the Mirrlees Review

28 Pages Posted: 22 May 2013

See all articles by Spencer Bastani

Spencer Bastani

Linnaeus University - Department of Economics and Statistics

Soren Blomquist

Uppsala University - Department of Economics; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Jukka Pirttila

United Nations - World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU/WIDER); Tampere University of Technology

Date Written: May 21, 2013

Abstract

The Mirrlees Review recommends that commodity taxation should in general be uniform, but with some goods consumed in conjunction with labour supply (such as child care) left untaxed. This paper examines the validity of this claim in an optimal income tax framework. Contrary to the recommendation of the Review, our theoretical results imply that even if all goods other than the good needed for working are separable from leisure, the optimal tax on these goods should not be uniform. Instead, goods with larger expenditure elasticities should be discouraged relatively more by the tax system. If the government fully subsidises the cost of the good needed for working, then commodity taxation is uniform under the standard separability assumption. Our results imply that the optimal commodity tax system is dependent on the expenditure side of the government. A calibration exercise presented in the paper suggests that these results can be quantitatively important.

Keywords: income taxation, commodity taxation, public provision, separability

JEL Classification: H210, H420

Suggested Citation

Bastani, Spencer and Blomquist, Soren and Pirttila, Jukka, How Should Commodities Be Taxed? A Counterargument to the Recommendation in the Mirrlees Review (May 21, 2013). CESifo Working Paper Series No. 4240. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2267735

Spencer Bastani

Linnaeus University - Department of Economics and Statistics ( email )

Växjö, 351 06
Sweden

Soren Blomquist

Uppsala University - Department of Economics ( email )

Box 513
SE-75120 Uppsala
Sweden
+46 18 471 1102 (Phone)
+46 18 471 1478 (Fax)

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany

HOME PAGE: http://www.CESifo.de

Jukka Pirttila (Contact Author)

United Nations - World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU/WIDER) ( email )

Katajanokanlaituri 6B
Helsinki, FIN-00160
Finland

Tampere University of Technology ( email )

P.O. 541, Korkeakoulunkatu 8 (Festia building)
Tampere, FI-33101
Finland

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