Economics Department


Date of this Version



Published in Southern Economic Journal, October 2010, 77(2):406-433.


Over the past two decades, the elasticity of taxable income has emerged as the central parameter for assessing efficiency and revenue implications from changes to tax policy. This article estimates short- and longer-run responses of taxable (and gross) income to changes in tax rates using panels of U.S. tax returns for the 1990s. With the richest set of income controls, income-weighted elasticity estimates range from 0.19 to 0.33, depending on whether responses are measured over one- or three-year intervals. An alternative approach designed to capture delayed and anticipatory responses yields much larger estimates -- ranging from 0.43 over the short term and from 0.78 to 1.46 over the longer term. A continuing obstacle to identification encountered here is that the income controls most likely to control for mean reversion and divergence within the income distribution are also the most likely to absorb independent variation in tax rates, also needed for identification.