Tax incidence

In economics, tax incidence or tax burden is the effect of a particular tax on the distribution of economic welfare. Economists distinguish between the entities who ultimately bear the tax burden and those on whom tax is initially imposed. The tax burden measures the true economic weight of the tax, measured by the difference between real incomes or utilities before and after imposing the tax. An individuality on whom the tax is levied does not have to bear the true size of the tax. For the example of this difference, assume a firm, that contains employer and employees. The tax imposed on the employer is divided. The concept of tax incidence was initially brought to economists' attention by the French Physiocrats, in particular François Quesnay, who argued that the incidence of all taxation falls ultimately on landowners and is at the expense of land rent. Tax incidence is said to "fall" upon the group that ultimately bears the burden of, or ultimately suffers a loss from, the tax. The key concept of tax incidence (as opposed to the magnitude of the tax) is that the tax incidence or tax burden does not depend on where the revenue is collected, but on the price elasticity of demand and price elasticity of supply. As a general policy matter, the tax incidence should not violate the principles of a desirable tax system, especially fairness and transparency.[1]

The theory of tax incidence has a number of practical results. For example, United States Social Security payroll taxes are paid half by the employee and half by the employer. However, some economists think that the worker bears almost the entire burden of the tax because the employer passes the tax on in the form of lower wages. The tax incidence is thus said to fall on the employee.[2] However, it could equally well be argued that in some cases the incidence of the tax falls on the employer. This is because both the price elasticity of demand and price elasticity of supply effect upon whom the incidence of the tax falls. Price controls such as the minimum wage which sets a price floor and market distortions such as subsidies or welfare payments also complicate the analysis.

Tax incidence in competitive markets

In competitive markets firms supply quantity of the product equals to the level at which the price of the good equals marginal cost (supply curve and marginal cost curve are indifferent). If a tax is imposed on producers of the particular good or service, the supply curve shifts to the left because of the increase of marginal cost. The tax size predicts the new level of quantity supplied, which is reduced in comparison to the initial level. In Figure 1 - a demand curve is added into this instance of competitive market. The demand curve and shifted supply curve create a new equilibrium, which is burdened by the tax.[3] The new equilibrium (with higher price and lower quantity than initial equilibrium) represents the price that consumers will pay for a given quantity of good extended by the part of the tax (p0+kt), k∈ [0,1].

The point on the initial supply curve with respect to quantity of the good after taxation represents the price (from which the part of the tax is subtracted (p0-(1-k)t), k∈ [0,1]) that producers will receive at given quantity. This this case, the tax burden is borne equally by the producers and consumers. For example, if the initial price of the good is $2, and the tax levied on the production is $.40, consumers will be able to buy the good for $2.20, while producers will receive $1.80.

Consider the case when the tax is levied on consumers. Unlike when tax is imposed on producers, the demand curve shifts to the left to create new equilibrium with initial supply (marginal cost) curve. The new equilibrium (at a lower price and lower quantity) represents the price that producers will receive after taxation and the point on the initial demand curve with respect to quantity of the good after taxation represents the price that consumers will pay due to the tax. Thus, it does not matter whether the tax is levied on consumers or producers.[4]

Furthermore, it also does not matter whether the tax is levied as a percentage of the price (say ad valorem tax) or as a fixed sum per unit (say specific tax). Both are graphically expressed as a shift of the demand curve to the left. While the demand curve moved by specific tax is parallel to the initial, the demand curve shifted by ad valorem tax is touching the initial, when the price is zero and deviating from it when the price is growing. However in the market equilibrium both curves cross.[4]

Detailed tax wedge
Figure 1 - tax incidence in perfect competition

Example of tax incidence

Imagine a $1 tax on every barrel of apples a farmer produces. If the farmer is able to pass the entire tax on to consumers by raising the price by $1, the product (apples) is price inelastic to the consumer. In this example, consumers bear the entire burden of the tax--the tax incidence falls on consumers. On the other hand, if the apple farmer is unable to raise prices because the product is price elastic, the farmer has to bear the burden of the tax or face decreased revenues--the tax incidence falls on the farmer. If the apple farmer can raise prices by an amount less than $1, then consumers and the farmer are sharing the tax burden. When the tax incidence falls on the farmer, this burden will typically flow back to owners of the relevant factors of production, including agricultural land and employee wages.

Where the tax incidence falls depends (in the short run) on the price elasticity of demand and price elasticity of supply. Tax incidence falls mostly upon the group that responds least to price (the group that has the most inelastic price-quantity curve). If the demand curve is inelastic relative to the supply curve the tax will be disproportionately borne by the buyer rather than the seller. If the demand curve is elastic relative to the supply curve, the tax will be borne disproportionately by the seller. If PED = PES the tax burden is split equally between buyer and seller.

Tax incidence can be calculated using the pass-through fraction. The pass-through fraction for buyers is PES/(PES - PED). So if PED for apples is -0.4 and PES is 0.5 then the pass-through fraction to buyer would be calculated as follows: PES/(PES - PED) = 0.5/[0.5 - (-.0.4)] = 0.5/0.9 = 56%. 56% of any tax increase would be "paid" by the buyer; 44% would be "paid" by the seller. From the perspective of the seller, the formula is -PED/(PES - PED) = -(-0.4)/[0.5 -(-0.4)] = 0.4∕.9 = 44%

Elasticity and tax incidence

Compared to previous phenomenas, elasticity of the demand and supply curve is an essential feature, that predicts how much the consumers and producers will be burdened in the specific case of taxation. General rule claims, that the steeper is demand curve and the flatter is supply curve, the more of the tax will bear by consumers and the flatter is demand curve and the steeper is supply curve, the more of the tax will be bear by producers.[5]

Inelastic supply, elastic demand

Because the producer is inelastic, they will produce the same quantity no matter the price. Because the consumer is elastic, the consumer is very sensitive to price. A small increase in price leads to a large drop in the quantity demanded. The imposition of the tax causes the market price to increase from P without tax to P with tax and the quantity demanded to fall from Q without tax to Q with tax. Because the consumer is elastic, the quantity change is significant. Because the producer is inelastic, the price doesn't change much. The producer is unable to pass the tax onto the consumer and the tax incidence falls on the producer. In this example, the tax is collected from the producer and the producer bears the tax burden. This is known as back shifting.

Elastic supply, inelastic demand

If, in contrast to the previous example, the consumer is inelastic, they will demand the same quantity no matter the price. Because the producer is elastic, the producer is very sensitive to price. A small drop in price leads to a large drop in the quantity produced. The imposition of the tax causes the market price to increase from P without tax to P with tax and the quantity demanded to fall from Q without tax to Q with tax. Because the consumer is inelastic, the quantity doesn't change much. Because the consumer is inelastic and the producer is elastic, the price changes dramatically. The change in price is very large. The producer is able to pass (in the short run) almost the entire value of the tax onto the consumer. Even though the tax is being collected from the producer the consumer is bearing the tax burden. The tax incidence is falling on the consumer, known as forward shifting.

Similarly elastic supply and demand

Most markets fall between these two extremes, and ultimately the incidence of tax is shared between producers and consumers in varying proportions. In this example, the consumers pay more than the producers, but not all of the tax. The area paid by consumers is obvious as the change in equilibrium price (between P without tax and P with tax); the remainder, being the difference between the new price and the cost of production at that quantity, is paid by the producers.

Special cases

When the supply curve is perfectly elastic (horizontal) or the demand curve is perfectly inelastic (vertical), the whole tax burden will be levied on consumers. An example of the perfect elastic supply curve is the market of the capital for small countries or businesses. In the instance of perfect elasticity of the demand or perfect inelasticity of the supply, the price will remain the same and the entire tax burden is on producers. An example of perfect inelastic supply curve is unimproved land ( it is a need to distinguish the land and the improvements, that might be applied) or crude oil. Thus, the whole tax burden is on landowners and owners of the oil.[4]

The other factors, that might affect the tax incidence is the difference between short-run and long-run and between open and closed economy.

The demand and supply for labor and tax incidence

All factors, which was derived on the tax incidence and competetive market might be used also in the case of market for labor. The key role of the paying the tax burden is still elasticity of the curves. Thus it does not matter, whether the tax is imposed on supplier (households) or companies, which demand the labor as a factor of production. The tax leads to the lower wages and lower employment. However some economists assumes, that supply curve for the labor is backward-bending. It means, that the quantity of labor increases if the wages increase and from given level of the wage it started to decrease. The shape of the curve follows an idea, that high wages is an incentive to work less. So, if the tax is levied of this type of the market, it reduces the wages and therefore the quantity of labor rises.[4]

Tax incidence without perfect competition

A market with perfect competition is very rare. More of the market is said to be imperfect competition such as monopoly, oligopoly or monopolistic competition. Producers choose the level of output, at which marginal cost equals marginal revenue. The demand curve predicts the price level. After taxation, the marginal cost curve shifts to the left to reach a new equilibrium characterized by lower quantity and higher price than before (that is given by the downward slope of the demand curve and marginal revenue curve). Elasticity of the curves is still the essential factor that predicts the size of the tax burden levied on consumers and producers. In general, the steeper the marginal cost curve, the smaller the observed change in output after taxation. The difference between perfect competition and imperfect competition can be observed when the marginal cost curve is horizontal (perfect elasticity). Unlike under perfect competition, when the tax burden will be on consumer, in the case of imperfect competition the supplier and consumer will share the burden. The size depends on the elasticity of demand curve. For instance, if the demand curve is linear, the ratio is balanced half and half). Another difference lies in the ad valorem tax and specific tax. For any given revenue, the output from ad valorem tax will exceed the output from specific tax.[4]

Tax incidence (producer)
Inelastic supply, elastic demand: the burden is on producers
Tax incidence (mixed)
Similar elasticities: burden shared

Macroeconomic perspective

The supply and demand for a good is deeply intertwined with the markets for the factors of production and for alternate goods and services that might be produced or consumed. Although legislators might be seeking to tax the apple industry, in reality it could turn out to be truck drivers who are hardest hit, if apple companies shift toward shipping by rail in response to their new cost. Or perhaps orange manufacturers will be the group most affected, if consumers decide to forgo oranges to maintain their previous level of apples at the now higher price. Ultimately, the burden of the tax falls on people—the owners, customers, or workers.[6]

However, the true burden of the tax cannot be properly assessed without knowing the use of the tax revenues. If the tax proceeds are employed in a manner that benefits owners more than producers and consumers then the burden of the tax will fall on producers and consumers. If the proceeds of the tax are used in a way that benefits producers and consumers, then owners suffer the tax burden. These are class distinctions concerning the distribution of costs and are not addressed in current tax incidence models. The US military offers major benefit to owners who produce offshore. Yet the tax levy to support this effort falls primarily on American producers and consumers. Corporations simply move out of the tax jurisdiction but still receive the property rights enforcement that is the mainstay of their income.

Other considerations of tax burden

Consider a 7% import tax applied equally to all imports (oil, autos, hula hoops, and brake rotors; steel, grain, everything) and a direct refund of every penny of collected revenue in the form of a direct egalitarian "Citizen's Dividend" to every person who files Income Tax returns. The import tax (tariff) will increase prices of goods for all domestic consumers, compared to the world price. This increase in the price of goods will result in two types of dead-weight loss: one attributable to domestic producers being incentivized to produce goods that would be more efficiently produced internationally, and the other attributable to domestic consumers being forced out of the market for goods that they would have bought, had the price not been artificially inflated by the tariff (import tax). The actual cost of the tax will be borne by whichever party (producers or consumers) has the more inelastic demand (see earlier section on relative elasticities), regardless of whether consumers buy domestic or foreign goods, and regardless of where the producers make their goods. [7]

Tax burden of a country relative to GDP

A country or state's tax burden as a percentage of GDP is the ratio of tax collection against the national gross domestic product (GDP). This is one way of illustrating how high and broad the tax base is in any particular place. Some countries, like Denmark, have a high tax-to-GDP ratio (as high as 48%, the highest in the world). Other countries, like India, have a low ratio. Some states increase the tax-to-GDP ratio by a certain percentage in order to cover deficiencies in the state budget revenue. In states where the tax revenue has gone up significantly, the percentage of tax revenue that is applied towards state revenue and foreign debt is sometimes higher. When tax revenues grow at a slower rate than the GDP of a country, the tax-to-GDP ratio drops. Taxes paid by individuals and corporations often account for the majority of tax receipts, especially in developed countries.[8]

Consumer and producer surplus

The burden from taxation is not just the quantity of tax paid (directly or indirectly), but the magnitude of the lost consumer surplus or producer surplus. The concepts are related but different. For example, imposing a $1000 per gallon of milk tax will raise no revenue (because legal milk production will stop), but this tax will cause substantial economic harm (lost consumer surplus and lost producer surplus). When examining tax incidence, it is the lost consumer and producer surplus that is important. See the tax article for more discussion.

Effects on the budget constraint

Through the budget constraint might be seen, that uniform tax on wages and uniform tax on consumption have an equivalent impact. Both taxes shift the budget constraint to the left. New line will be characterized by same slope as the initial (parallelism).[4]

Other practical results

The theory of tax incidence has a large number of practical results, although economists dispute the magnitude and significance of these results:

  • If the government requires employers to provide employees with health care, some of the burden will fall on the employee as the employer will pass it on in the form of lower wages. Some of the burden will be borne by employer (and ultimately the customer in form of higher prices or lower quality) since both the supply of and demand for labor are highly inelastic and have few perfect substitutes. Employers need employees largely to the extent they can substitute employees for machines, and employees need employers largely to the extent they can become self-employed entrepreneurs. An uneducated population is therefore more susceptible to bearing the burden because they are more easily replaced by machines able to do unskilled work, and because they have less knowledge of how to make money on their own.
  • Taxes on easily substitutable goods, such as oranges and tangerines, may be borne mostly by the producer because the demand curve for easily substitutable goods is quite elastic.
  • Similarly, taxes on a business that can easily be relocated are likely to be borne almost entirely by the residents of the taxing jurisdiction and not the owners of the business.
  • The burden of tariffs (import taxes) on imported vehicles might fall largely on the producers of the cars because the demand curve for foreign cars might be elastic if car consumers may substitute a domestic car purchase for a foreign car purchase.
  • If consumers drive the same number of miles regardless of gas prices, then a tax on gasoline will be paid for by consumers and not oil companies (this is assuming that the price elasticity of supply of oil is high). Who actually bears the economic burden of the tax is not affected by whether government collects the tax at the pump or directly from oil companies.


Assessing tax incidence is a major economics subfield within the field of public finance.

Most public finance economists acknowledge that nominal tax incidence (i.e. who writes the check to pay a tax) is not necessarily identical to actual economic burden of the tax, but disagree greatly among themselves on the extent to which market forces disturb the nominal tax incidence of various types of taxes in various circumstances.

The effects of certain kinds of taxes, for example, the property tax, including their economic incidence, efficiency properties and distributional implications, have been the subject of a long and contentious debate among economists.[9]

The empirical evidence tends to support different economic models under different circumstances. For example, empirical evidence on property tax incidents tends to support one economic model, known as the "benefit tax" view in suburban areas, while tending to support another economic model, known as the "capital tax" view in urban and rural areas.[10]

There is an inherent conflict in any model between considering many factors, which complicates the model and makes it hard to apply, and using a simple model, which may limit the circumstances in which its predictions are empirically useful.

Lower and higher taxes were tested in the United States from 1980 to 2010 and it was found that the periods of greatest economic growth occurred during periods of higher taxation.[11][12] This does not prove causation. It is possible that the time of higher economic growth provided government with more leeway to impose higher taxes.

See also


  1. ^ "Fairness".
  2. ^ International Burdens of the Corporate Income Tax
  3. ^ "Taxes in competitive market".
  4. ^ a b c d e f Stiglitz, J.E. (2000) Economics of the Public Sector, 3. Edition.
  5. ^ "Elasticity and taxation".
  6. ^ The Tax Foundation - Who Really Pays the Corporate Income Tax? Archived 2008-05-31 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ "Forms of Taxation - Lawrance George
  8. ^ "Tax-To-GDP Ratio"
  9. ^ See, e.g., Zodrow GR, Mieszkowski P. "The Incidence of the Property Tax. The Benefit View vs. the New View". In: Local Provision of Public Services: The Tiebout Model after Twenty-Five Years—Zodrow GR, ed. (1983) New York: Academic Press. 109–29.
  10. ^ Zodrow, The Property Tax Incidence Debate and the Mix of State and Local Finance of Local Public Expenditures (2008), citing Fischel, Regulatory Takings: Law, Economics, and Politics (1995)
  11. ^ LEONHARDT, DAVID (September 15, 2012). "Do Tax Cuts Lead to Economic Growth?". The New York Times Company. Retrieved 16 April 2014.
  12. ^ Blodget, Henry (21 September 2012). "BOMBSHELL: New Study Destroys Theory That Tax Cuts Spur Growth". Business Insider, Inc. Retrieved 16 April 2014.
Equity (economics)

Equity or economic equality is the concept or idea of fairness in economics, particularly in regard to taxation or welfare economics. More specifically, it may refer to equal life chances regardless of identity, to provide all citizens with a basic and equal minimum of income, goods, and services or to increase funds and commitment for redistribution.

Excess burden of taxation

In economics, the excess burden of taxation, also known as the deadweight cost or deadweight loss of taxation, is one of the economic losses that society suffers as the result of taxes or subsidies. Economic theory posits that distortions change the amount and type of economic behavior from that which would occur in a free market without the tax. Excess burdens can be measured using the average cost of funds or the marginal cost of funds (MCF). Excess burdens were first discussed by Adam Smith.An equivalent kind of inefficiency can also be caused by subsidies (which technically can be viewed as taxes with negative rates).Economic losses due to taxes were evaluated to be as low as 2.5 cents per dollar of revenue, and as high as 30 cents per dollar of revenue (on average), and even much higher at the margins.

Federal tax revenue by state

This is a table of the total federal tax revenue by state collected by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.

Gross Collections indicates the total federal tax revenue collected by the IRS from each U.S. state, the District of Columbia, and the Puerto Rico. The figure includes all Individual federal taxes and Corporate Federal Taxes income taxes, payroll taxes, estate taxes, gift taxes, and excise taxes. This table does not include federal tax revenue data from U.S. Armed Forces personnel stationed overseas, U.S. territories other than Puerto Rico, and U.S. citizens and legal residents living abroad, even though they may be required to pay federal taxes.

Federal taxation and spending by state

The ability of the United States government to tax and spend in specific regions has large implications to economic activity and performance. Taxes are indexed to wages and profits and therefore areas of high taxation are correlated with areas of higher per capita income and more economic activity.

Spending is largely focused on areas of poverty, the elderly, and centers of federal employment such as military bases.

Fiscal incidence

In public finance, a sub-discipline of economics, fiscal incidence is the combined overall economic impact of both government taxation and expenditures on the real economic income of individuals.

While taxation reduces the economic well-being of individuals, government expenditures raise their economic well-being. Fiscal incidence is the overall impact of government taxing and spending considered together.

Flypaper theory (economics)

The flypaper theory of tax incidence is a pejorative term used by economists to describe the assumption that the burden of a tax, like a fly on flypaper, sticks wherever it first lands. Economists point out several flaws with the assumption:

it ignores the elasticity of goods; and

it ignores the ability of producers to shift the cost of the tax onto consumers.For example, consider a tax levied on a luxury item such as jewelry. Such a tax, while intended to target the wealthy, may not actually accomplish this objective, as the wealthy can simply choose to buy less jewelry. Instead of collecting more money from the wealthy, the tax has the effect of hurting jewelry merchants, who are not the intended targets of the tax.

As another example, suppose a tax is levied on the sellers of a product. The sellers may simply raise the price of the product, thus shifting the burden of the tax onto the buyers of the product.

This should not be confused with the flypaper effect, which holds that money from a federal authority to a state authority tends to increase overall expenditure rather than merely substitute for locally-raised revenue.

Life insurance tax shelter

A life insurance tax shelter uses investments in insurance to protect income or assets from tax liabilities. Life insurance proceeds are not taxable in many jurisdictions. Since most other forms of income are taxable (such as capital gains, dividends and interest income), consumers are often advised to purchase life insurance policies to either offset future tax liabilities, or to shelter the growth of their investments from taxation. This insurance product is also known as Private placement life insurance.

Private placement life insurance

Private placement life insurance is a form of cash value universal life insurance that is offered privately, rather than through a public offering.

Progressive tax

A progressive tax is a tax in which the average tax rate (taxes paid ÷ personal income) increases as the taxable amount increases. The term "progressive" refers to the way the tax rate progresses from low to high, with the result that a taxpayer's average tax rate is less than the person's marginal tax rate. The term can be applied to individual taxes or to a tax system as a whole; a year, multi-year, or lifetime. Progressive taxes are imposed in an attempt to reduce the tax incidence of people with a lower ability to pay, as such taxes shift the incidence increasingly to those with a higher ability-to-pay. The opposite of a progressive tax is a regressive tax, where the average tax rate or burden decreases as an individual's ability to pay increases.The term is frequently applied in reference to personal income taxes, in which people with lower income pay a lower percentage of that income in tax than do those with higher income. It can also apply to adjustments of the tax base by using tax exemptions, tax credits, or selective taxation that creates progressive distribution effects. For example, a wealth or property tax, a sales tax on luxury goods, or the exemption of sales taxes on basic necessities, may be described as having progressive effects as it increases the tax burden of higher income families and reduces it on lower income families.Progressive taxation is often suggested as a way to mitigate the societal ills associated with higher income inequality, as the tax structure reduces inequality, but economists disagree on the tax policy's economic and long-term effects. One study suggests progressive taxation can be positively associated with happiness, the subjective well-being of nations and citizen satisfaction with public goods, such as education and transportation.

Proportional tax

A proportional tax is a tax imposed so that the tax rate is fixed, with no change as the taxable base amount increases or decreases. The amount of the tax is in proportion to the amount subject to taxation. "Proportional" describes a distribution effect on income or expenditure, referring to the way the rate remains consistent (does not progress from "low to high" or "high to low" as income or consumption changes), where the marginal tax rate is equal to the average tax rate.It can be applied to individual taxes or to a tax system as a whole; a year, multi-year, or lifetime. Proportional taxes maintain equal tax incidence regardless of the ability-to-pay and do not shift the incidence disproportionately to those with a higher or lower economic well-being.

Flat taxes are defined as levying a fixed (“flat”) fraction of taxable income. They usually exempt from taxation household income below a statutorily determined level that is a function of the type and size of the household. As a result, such a flat marginal rate is consistent with a progressive average tax rate. A progressive tax is a tax imposed so that the tax rate increases as the amount subject to taxation increases. The opposite of a progressive tax is a regressive tax, where the tax rate decreases as the amount subject to taxation increases.

The French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 1789 proclaims: A common contribution is essential for the maintenance of the public forces and for the cost of administration. This should be equitably distributed among all the citizens in proportion to their means.

Public economics

Public economics (or economics of the public sector) is the study of government policy through the lens of economic efficiency and equity. Public economics builds on the theory of welfare economics and is ultimately used as a tool to improve social welfare.

Public economics provides a framework for thinking about whether or not the government should participate in economic markets and to what extent it should do so. Microeconomic theory is utilized to assess whether the private market is likely to provide efficient outcomes in the absence of governmental interference; this study involves the analysis of government taxation and expenditures.

This subject encompasses a host of topics including market failures, externalities, and the creation and implementation of government policy.Broad methods and topics include:

the theory and application of public finance

analysis and design of public policy

distributional effects of taxation and government expenditures

analysis of market failure and government failure.Emphasis is on analytical and scientific methods and normative-ethical analysis, as distinguished from ideology. Examples of topics covered are tax incidence, optimal taxation, and the theory of public goods.

Regressive tax

A regressive tax is a tax imposed in such a manner that the average tax rate (tax paid ÷ personal income) decreases as the amount subject to taxation increases. "Regressive" describes a distribution effect on income or expenditure, referring to the way the rate progresses from high to low, so that the average tax rate exceeds the marginal tax rate. In terms of individual income and wealth, a regressive tax imposes a greater burden (relative to resources) on the poor than on the rich: there is an inverse relationship between the tax rate and the taxpayer's ability to pay, as measured by assets, consumption, or income. These taxes tend to reduce the tax burden of the people with a higher ability to pay, as they shift the relative burden increasingly to those with a lower ability to pay.

The regressivity of a particular tax can also factor the propensity of the taxpayers to engage in the taxed activity relative to their resources (the demographics of the tax base). In other words, if the activity being taxed is more likely to be carried out by the poor and less likely to be carried out by the rich, the tax may be considered regressive. To measure the effect, the income elasticity of the good being taxed as well as the income effect on consumption must be considered. The measure can be applied to individual taxes or to a tax system as a whole; a year, multi-year, or lifetime.

The opposite of a regressive tax is a progressive tax, in which the average tax rate increases as the amount subject to taxation rises In between is a flat or proportional tax, where the tax rate is fixed as the amount subject to taxation increases.

State tax levels in the United States

State tax levels indicate both the tax burden and the services a state can afford to provide residents.

States use a different combination of sales, income, excise taxes, and user fees. Some are levied directly from residents and others are levied indirectly. This table includes the per capita tax collected at the state level.

Note, however, that this table does not necessarily reflect the actual tax burdens borne directly by individual persons or businesses in a state. For example, the direct state tax burden on individuals in Alaska is far lower than the table would indicate. The state has no direct personal income tax and does not collect a sales tax at the state level, although it allows local governments to collect their own sales taxes. Alaska collects most of its revenue from corporate taxes on the oil and gas industry.

Note also that this table does not take into consideration the taxing and spending of local governments within states, which can vary widely, and sometimes disproportionately with state tax burdens.

Stealth tax

A stealth tax is a tax levied in such a way that is largely unnoticed, or not recognized as a tax. The phrase was generally used in the United Kingdom by Conservatives to attack the New Labour government's behaviour. It should not be confused with double taxation or privatisation.

Tax advantage

Tax advantage refers to the economic bonus which applies to certain accounts or investments that are, by statute, tax-reduced, tax-deferred, or tax-free. Governments establish the tax advantages to encourage private individuals to contribute money when it is considered to be in the public interest.

An example is retirement plans, which often offer tax advantages to incentivize savings for retirement. In the United States, many government bonds (such as state bonds or municipal bonds) may also be exempt from certain taxes.

In countries in which the average age of the population is increasing, tax advantages may put pressure on pension schemes. For example, where benefits are funded on a pay-as-you-go basis, the benefits paid to those receiving a pension come directly from the contributions of those of working age. If the proportion of pensioners to working-age people rises, the contributions needed from working people will also rise proportionately. In the United States, the rapid onset of Baby Boomer retirement is currently causing such a problem.

However, there are international limitations regarding tax advantages realized through pensions plans. If a person with dual citizen in the United States and in the United Kingdom, they may have tax liabilities to both. If this person is living in the United Kingdom, their pension could have tax advantages in the UK, for example, but not in the US. Even though a UK pension may be exempt from UK tax, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is exempt from US taxes. In short, a US Tax payer with dual citizenship may have to pay taxes on the gains from the UK pension to the United States government, but not the United Kingdom.

In order to reduce the burden on such schemes, many governments give privately funded retirement plans a tax advantaged status in order to encourage more people to contribute to such arrangements. Governments often exclude such contributions from an employee's taxable income, while allowing employers to receive tax deductions for contributions to plan funds. Investment earnings in pension funds are almost universally excluded from income tax while accumulating, prior to payment. Payments to retirees and their beneficiaries also sometimes receive favorable tax treatment. In return for a pension scheme's tax advantaged status, governments typically enact restrictions to discourage access to a pension fund's assets before retirement.

Investing in annuities may allow investors to realize tax advantages that are not realized through other tax-deferred retirement accounts, such as 401k and IRAs. One of the great advantages of annuities is they allow an investor to store away large amounts of cash and defer paying taxes. There is no yearly limit to contributions for annuities. This is especially useful for those approaching retirement age that may not have saved large sums throughout previous years. The total investment compounds annually without any federal taxes. This allows each dollar in the entire investment to accrue interest, which could potentially be an advantage compared to taxable investments. Additionally, upon cashing the annuity out, the investor can decide to receive a lump-sum payment, or develop a more spread out payout plan.

In order to encourage home ownership, there are tax deductions on mortgage payments. Likewise, to encourage charitable donations from high net-worth individuals, there are tax deductions on charitable donations greater than a specified amount.

In the United States life insurance policies also have tax advantages. Income can grow in a life insurance policy that is tax deferred or tax-free. Additionally, there are certain advantages within certain life insurance policies that are excluded from estate and/or inheritance taxes.

Additionally, investments in partnerships and Limited Liability Companies also have tax advantages. For individual owners of businesses, the LLC is taxed as a sole proprietorship. This means that the entity is not taxed, but the income earned by the entity is taxed to the owner. The LLC has important tax advantages, such as the owners profits potentially being taxed at the owners lower marginal tax bracket. Furthermore, losses can offset the sole proprietor’s non-business income. If there are multiple owners of a Limited Liability Company, there is also tax advantages associated with it. They can choose to be taxed as a partnership, but they can also decide to be taxed as a corporate-entity. Partnerships are not taxed, but corporations are. For LLCs taxed as partnerships the income is taxed to the partners. For a corporation or an LLC taxed like a corporation, the entity is subject to tax and dividends on after tax income are also taxed to the shareholders of the corporation or the members of the LLC.

A capital gains tax can be thought of as tax advantaged or benefitted. When an investor receives profit by selling a capital asset, such as the sale of stock, this is taxed at the rate of the capital gains tax, which is often lower than the income tax. Thus, business owners and investors are incentivized to make profits by making capital gains rather than a steady wage.

In the United States, real estate investments are one of the best ways to yield tax advantages. One benefit is the ability to regain the cost of income producing (for example, commercial real estate) properties through depreciation. When a property is bought in the United States, the cost of the building and land are capitalized. If the building is a commercial property or a rental property, used in a business, the cost of the building is depreciated over 39 years for non-residential buildings and 27.5 years for residential buildings using the straight-line depreciation method for tax purposes. The building’s cost is written off over the lifespan of the building by annual depreciation deductions. Thus, the building owner receives these depreciation deductions as tax advantages at their income tax rate. Upon the sale of a property, depreciation recapture is the part of the gains that the depreciation deductions are responsible for during the period of ownership. The following is an example to show the idea of depreciation in a clear manner. A building owner buys a building for $20 million. After 5 years the owner has taken $1 million of depreciation deductions. Now, the building owner’s basis in the building is $19 million. If the owner decides to sell the building for $25 million, the building owner will realize a gain of $6 million ($25 million less $19 million). Oftentimes people wrongly assume that this $6 million is taxed at a capital gains rate. However, this is a common misconception. In this example, $1 million of the gain would actually be taxed at the depreciation recapture rate, and the other $5 million at the capital gains rate.

In essence building tax advantages into the law is providing a government subsidy for engaging in this behavior. Obviously encouraging people to save for retirement is a good idea, because it reduces the need for the government to support people later in life by spending money on welfare or other government expenses for these people, but does a capital gains tax rate benefit spur investment? Should capital gains tax benefit be limited to direct investments in businesses and not to the secondary capital markets (because they don't provide financing for growing businesses)?

Tax bracket

Tax brackets are the divisions at which tax rates change in a progressive tax system (or an explicitly regressive tax system, although this is much rarer). Essentially, they are the cutoff values for taxable income—income past a certain point will be taxed at a higher rate.

Tax policy

Tax policy is the choice by a government as to what taxes to levy, in what amounts, and on whom. It has both microeconomic and macroeconomic aspects. The macroeconomic aspects concern the overall quantity of taxes to collect, which can inversely affect the level of economic activity; this is one component of fiscal policy. The microeconomic aspects concern issues of fairness (who to tax) and allocative efficiency (i.e., which taxes will have how much of a distorting effect on the amounts of various types of economic activity).

Tax rate

In a tax system, the tax rate is the ratio (usually expressed as a percentage) at which a business or person is taxed. There are several methods used to present a tax rate: statutory, average, marginal, and effective. These rates can also be presented using different definitions applied to a tax base: inclusive and exclusive.

Tax wedge

The tax wedge is the deviation from the equilibrium price/quantity ( and , respectively) as a result of the taxation of a good. Because of the tax, consumers pay more for the good () than they did before the tax, and suppliers receive less for the good () than they did before the tax . Put differently, the tax wedge is the difference between what consumers pay and what producers receive (net of tax) from a transaction. The tax effectively drives a "wedge" between the price consumers pay and the price producers receive for a product.

Following from the Law of Supply and Demand, as the price to consumers increases, and the price received by suppliers decreases, the quantity that each wishes to trade will decrease. After a tax is introduced, a new equilibrium is reached, where consumers pay more , suppliers receive less , and the quantity exchanged falls . The difference between and will be equivalent to the size of the per-unit tax.

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