NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Measuring Top Incomes Using Tax Record Data: A Cautionary Tale from Australia

Richard V. Burkhauser, Markus H. Hahn, Roger Wilkins

NBER Working Paper No. 19121
Issued in June 2013
NBER Program(s):   LS   PE   TWP

Atkinson, Piketty, and Saez (2011) survey an important new literature using income tax-based data to measure the share of income held by top income groups. But changes in tax legislation that expand the tax base to include income sources (e.g. capital gains, dividends, etc.) disproportionately held by these groups will conflate such an expansion with an increase in the share of income they hold. We provide a cautionary tale from Australia of how comprehensive tax reform legislation in 1985 substantially altered Australian top income series, especially those that do not separate taxable realized capital gains from other taxable income.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w19121

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