Inequality and the Choice of the Personal Tax Base


ISBN: 978-0-7623-1450-8, eISBN: 978-1-84950-508-6

ISSN: 1049-2585

Publication date: 6 July 2007


It is possible to employ either income or expenditure as the base for personal taxation. A considerable literature has developed that investigates the relative efficiency of these bases. The answer is usually in favor of the expenditure tax since it does not distort the choice between consumption and saving. In contrast, the literature is almost silent on the relative equity of the two bases. We investigate the redistributive consequences of the choice in models with two sources of heterogeneity: skill in employment and lump-sum endowment. The Gini coefficient is used to measure the degree of equity achieved by the tax bases in static and dynamic settings. Income taxes and expenditure taxes that generate equal welfare or equal revenue are compared. In the static economy the income tax leads to lower inequality except when skill and endowment are negatively correlated. Inequality is always lower with the income tax in the dynamic economy. These results support the choice of income as the base for personal taxation if reduction in inequality is a priority of policy.


Hashimzade, N. and Myles, G. (2007), "Inequality and the Choice of the Personal Tax Base", Lambert, P. (Ed.) Equity (Research on Economic Inequality, Vol. 15), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 73-97.

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