Margherita Borella, Mariacristina De Nardi, Fang Yang, 23 November 2019

In the US, both taxes and social security benefits depend on one’s marital status and tend to discourage the labour supply of the secondary earner. Using information on US cohorts born in 1945 and 1955, this column shows that eliminating marriage-related provisions drastically increases the participation of married women over their entire life cycle and reduces the participation of married men after age 60. If the resulting government surplus were used to lower income taxation, there would be large welfare gains for the vast majority of the population.

Andrea Ichino, Martin Olsson, Barbara Petrongolo, Peter Skogman Thoursie, 11 September 2019

Gender identity norms are possible drivers of persistent gender inequalities in the labour market, but the extent to which such norms restrict the behaviour of couples is debated. This column examines how households in Sweden changed their allocation of home production in response to the introduction of a tax credit that altered the marginal tax rates (and the relative take-home pay) in different ways for spouses in couples. It finds that immigrant couples, who tend to come from countries with more traditional gender norms than Sweden, responded more strongly to a reduction in the husband’s tax rate than the wife’s. By not responding to wives’ tax cuts, these couples may forgo as much as £2,000 per year in household disposable income.

Joel Slemrod, Obeid Ur Rehman, Mazhar Waseem, 15 May 2019

Governments typically seek to reduce tax evasion by increasing the odds of catching tax evaders or by raising the punishments. Using social and psychological motivations may offer another approach to promoting tax compliance. This column analyses two Pakistani initiatives – public disclosure of income taxes and a recognition-and-rewards programme for top taxpayers – and shows that, to the extent that they are effective in influencing private and social behaviour, they potentially offer a cost-effective complement to standard tax-evasion measures. 

Joan Monras, Javier Vázquez-Grenno, Ferran Elias, 15 May 2018

Studies have shown that granting work permits helps immigrants settle and integrate into host economies, but we know relatively little about how host economies are affected by the mass legalisation of immigrant workers. This column uses one of the largest and most unexpected legalisations in the world – by the Zapatero government in Spain – to show how legalisation can increase public revenues, but can also have distributive consequences for other workers in the economy.

Jan van Ours, Ali Palali, 16 October 2015

A major aim of cigarette taxes and tobacco control policies is to encourage smokers to quit. It is therefore important to understand the dynamics of quitting decisions in two-smoker couples. This column uses Dutch data to examine whether spousal peer effects exist for smoking cessation decisions. After controlling for the fact that couples are more likely to be similar to begin with, no evidence is found of one partner’s decision to quit affecting their spouse’s decision.

Hans Holter, Dirk Krueger, Serhiy Stepanchuk, 20 February 2015

Since the Global Crisis, debt sustainability has received increasing attention. This column argues that the maximum sustainable debt level depends negatively on the progressivity of the tax system. The authors estimate that the US is still relatively far from the peak of its Laffer curve and from its maximally sustainable debt level. However, adopting a flat tax would raise the maximum sustainable debt from 330% to more than 350% of benchmark GDP, whereas adopting Danish-style progressivity would lower it to less than 250%.

Manudeep Bhuller, Magne Mogstad, Kjell G. Salvanes, 22 September 2014

The impact of education on earnings over the life cycle is a critical factor for policy decisions ranging from education to taxation and pensions. This column exploits a unique Norwegian population panel data set to estimate an internal rate of return to additional schooling of about 10%. The standard Mincer-regression approach is also shown to substantially underestimate schooling’s rate of return.

Stefan Bach, Gert Wagner, 15 August 2012

The European debt crisis drags on, dragging Europe down with it. This column argues that one-off capital levies – taxes on the rich – is one way of financing debt reduction. This could be an important step towards deleveraging public budgets without severely damaging the economy.

Hans Holter, Indraneel Chakraborty, Serhiy Stepanchuk, 18 May 2012

It is no secret that Americans work more than Europeans – 30% more according to recent studies. Many economists point to higher taxes in Europe as a major cause. This column suggests that divorce rates also play a role, particularly for women's labour supply.

Frank Chaloupka, Richard Peck, John Tauras, Xin Xu, Ayda Yurekli, 03 October 2010

Governments tax tobacco products for both revenue and public health purposes. How should they structure tobacco taxes? This column uses data from 21 EU countries between 1998 and 2007 to argue that cigarettes should be subject to a high, uniform specific tax in the interest of both objectives.

Tullio Jappelli, Luigi Pistaferri, 02 April 2010

How does consumption respond to a change in income – whether expected or unexpected, temporary or permanent? This column reviews evidence from diverse sources and suggests that if financial market arrangements and liquidity constraints are binding, even changes in income that are predictable can have a significant effect on consumption. This supports the idea that tax changes can have a considerable impact on expenditure.

Deliana Kostova, Hana Ross, Evan Blecher, Sara Markowitz, 12 March 2010

Do higher cigarette prices deter smoking? This column finds that policymakers in developing countries could reduce cigarette consumption by youths by raising taxes. A 10% increase in the price will reduce youth cigarette demand by 18.3%.

Alan Ahearne, Juan Delgado, Jakob von Weizsäcker, 27 June 2008

Housing booms associated with credit booms are particularly damaging, but the ECB’s one-size-fits-all monetary policy is useless in pricking national bubbles. Euro area governments should use national banking regulations to dampen national bubbles and countercyclical housing taxes to prick bubbles that arise.

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