On the Undesirability of Commodity Taxation Even When Income Taxation is Not Optimal

20 Pages Posted: 19 Apr 2004

See all articles by Louis Kaplow

Louis Kaplow

Harvard Law School; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: April 2004

Abstract

An important result due to Atkinson and Stiglitz (1976) is that differential commodity taxation is not optimal in the presence of an optimal nonlinear income tax (given weak separability of utility between labor and all consumption goods). This article demonstrates that their conclusion holds regardless of whether the income tax is optimal. In particular, given any commodity tax and income tax system, differential commodity taxation can be eliminated in a manner that results in a Pareto improvement. Also, differential commodity taxation can be proportionally reduced so as to generate a Pareto improvement. In addition, for commodity tax reforms that do not eliminate or proportionally reduce differential taxation, a simple efficiency condition is offered for determining whether a Pareto improvement is possible.

Suggested Citation

Kaplow, Louis, On the Undesirability of Commodity Taxation Even When Income Taxation is Not Optimal (April 2004). NBER Working Paper No. w10407. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=528988

Louis Kaplow (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

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