NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Using Elasticities to Derive Optimal Income Tax Rates

Emmanuel Saez

NBER Working Paper No. 7628
Issued in March 2000
NBER Program(s):   PE

This paper derives optimal income tax formulas using compensated and uncompensated elasticities of earnings with respect to tax rates. A simple formula for the high income optimal tax rate is obtained as a function of these elasticities and the thickness of the top tail of the income distribution. In the general non-linear income tax problem, this method using elasticities shows precisely how the different economic effects come into play and which are the key relevant parameters in the optimal income tax formulas of Mirrlees. The optimal non-linear tax rate formulas are expressed in terms of elasticities and the shape of the income distribution. These formulas are implemented numerically using empirical earnings distributions and a range of realistic elasticity parameters.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w7628

Published: Saez, Emmanuel. "Using Elasticities To Drive Optimal Income Tax Rates," Review of Economic Studies, 2001, v68(234,Jan), 205-229. citation courtesy of

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