Identifying Tax Implicit Equivalence Scales

Melbourne Institute Working Paper No. 03/14

Date: 2014


Justin van de Ven
Nicolas Herault
Francisco Azpitarte


This paper describes a simple and tractable method for identifying equivalence scales that reflect the value judgements implicit in a tax and benefits system. The approach depends upon two assumptions that are standard in the literature concerned with inequality and tax progressivity, in addition to a functional description for transfer payments that can be estimated using common micro-data sources. We use this approach to evaluate tax implicit equivalence scales for the UK transfer system that applied in April 2009. The tax implicit scales that we identify for the UK vary positively with tax unit size and are decreasing in gross earnings, reflecting recent econometric estimates based on consumption data. We conclude by discussing a range of potential applications for the proposed tax implicit scales.

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