Department of Economics and Business Economics

Welfare Effects of Tax and Price Changes Revisited

Research output: Working paperResearch

  • Knud Jørgen Munk, Denmark
  • School of Economics and Management
Dixit's 1975 paper "Welfare Effects of Tax and Price Changes" constitutes a seminal contribution to the
theory of tax reform analysis within a second-best general equilibrium framework. The present paper
clarifies ambiguities with respect to normalisation which have led to misinterpretation of some of Dixit's
analytical results. It proves that a marginal tax reform starting from a proportional tax system will improve
social welfare if it increases the supply of labour, whatever the rule of normalisation adopted, and shows that
this result provides the key to understanding what determines the optimal system of commodity taxation as
reflected in the Corlett and Hague analysis of optimal taxation in an economy with two produced
commodities. Recasting work by Deaton (1981b), it generalises, using an alternative definition of the
complementarity between consumption and leisure, to an economy with many commodities the insight that
the optimal tax system is determined as a trade-off between two objectives: 1) to encourage the supply of
labour to the market, and 2), to limit the distortion of the pattern of consumption of produced commodities.
This insight cannot be illustrated by simulation studies using standard additive separable utility functions.
However, extending work of Atkinson and Stern (1980, 1981) the paper presents a parameterised utility
function with explicit representation of the use of time, the CES-UT, which allows a flexible representation
of the relationship between consumption and leisure. This functional form is used to provide a quantitative
illustration of the trade-off which defines the optimal tax system and thus desirable directions of tax reform.
Original languageEnglish
Place of publicationAarhus
PublisherInstitut for Økonomi, Aarhus Universitet
Number of pages36
Publication statusPublished - 2008

    Research areas

  • Public economics, optimal taxation, tax reform, tax simulation, distance functions, CGE models

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ID: 10371232