On the Political Economics of Tax Reforms
50 Pages Posted: 4 Aug 2011
Date Written: July 29, 2011
There is often a gap between the prescriptions of an 'optimal' tax system and actual tax systems, some of which can be neither efficient economically nor efficient at redistributing income. With a focus on personal income taxes, this paper reviews the political economics literature on tax systems and reforms to see whether political mechanisms allow us to better understand why tax systems look the way they look. Finally, we exploit a database of reforms in labor taxation in the European Union to check the determinants of all reforms, on the one hand, and of targeted reforms, on the other hand. The results fit well with political economy theories and show that political variables carry more weight in triggering reforms than economic variables. This shed light on whether and how tax reforms are achievable. It also explains why many reforms that seem economically optimal fail to be implemented.
Keywords: political economy, taxation, personal income tax
JEL Classification: H110, H210, H240, P160
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