How Progressive is the U.S. Federal Tax System? A Historical and International Perspective

  title={How Progressive is the U.S. Federal Tax System? A Historical and International Perspective},
  author={Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez},
  journal={Economic History},
This paper provides estimates of federal tax rates by income groups in the United States since 1960, with special emphasis on very top income groups. We include individual and corporate income taxes, payroll taxes, and estate and gift taxes. The progressivity of the U.S. federal tax system at the top of the income distribution has declined dramatically since the 1960s. This dramatic drop in progressivity is due primarily to a drop in corporate taxes and in estate and gift taxes combined with a… 
Progressive and Regressive Taxation in the United States: Who's Really Paying (and Not Paying) Their Fair Share?
The 2010 debate over extending the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts often focused the fairness of the tax distribution in the United States. Unfortunately, discussions of tax fairness rarely take into
Distributional National Accounts: Methods and Estimates for the United States
This paper combines tax, survey, and national accounts data to estimate the distribution of national income in the United States since 1913. Our distributional national accounts capture 100% of
The Moving Target of Tax Reform
In 2000, Professor William Turnier proposed a package of three reforms to make the estate tax more “equitable” and “taxpayer-friendly.” All of his proposals — allowing a surviving spouse to inherit a
Partisan Tax Policy and Income Inequality in the U.S., 1979-2007
We assess the effects of U.S. tax policy reforms on inequality by applying a new decomposition method that allows us to disentangle the direct policy effect from the effect of changing market
A fiscal revolution? Progressivity in the Spanish tax system, 1960-1990
The main objective of this paper is to calculate the distribution of the tax burden across income levels in Spain between 1960 and 1990. The chosen period covers the final years of Franco’s
Estimating the Impact of Taxes on the Economic Growth in the United States
Abstract In a research paper, the authors provide an empirical approach to taxes and economic growth in the United States in the period 1996-2016. The basic goal is to explore how taxes affect
This paper examines the role that federal and especially state tax policies play in mitigating income inequality. The results show that the tax code reduces income inequality considerably in all
The Elasticity of Taxable Income: Influences on Economic Efficiency and Tax Revenues, and Implications for Tax Policy
This chapter focuses on important developments in ETI research, both empirical and theoretical, over the first decade of the twenty-first century and relates them to important tax issues that the
A distributional analysis of substituting a value-added tax for the current federal tax system
The growing public dissatisfaction with the current federal tax system and the ongoing national debt crisis are generating serious consideration o f alternative consumption tax systems, especially
Taxation and the worlds of welfare
We use Luxembourg Income Study (LIS) data to compare the progressivity of the tax structure in the USA and Europe. LIS data allow a comparison of tax rates that attempts to take different starting


How progressive is the US federal tax system? A historical and international perspective
This paper provides estimates of federal tax rates by income groups in the United States since 1960, with special emphasis on very top income groups. We include individual and corporate income taxes,
Who Paid the Taxes 1966-85?
Who bears the tax burden in the United States? How has the distribution of taxes changed in the past two decades? What changes have occurred in the distribution of income before and after taxes? This
Who Bears the Corporate Tax? A Review of What We Know
Who bears the corporate income tax? The answer to this question is important to our understanding of the distribution of tax burdens, but it has been elusive. Although the tax accounts for a small
Income Inequality in the United States, 1913–1998
This paper presents new homogeneous series on top shares of income and wages from 1913 to 1998 in the United States using individual tax returns data. Top income and wages shares display a U-shaped
The Distributional Burden of Taxing Estates and Unrealized Capital Gains at the Time of Death
The 1998 Survey of Consumer Finances provides information on household wealth ownership that can be used to estimate the effect of changing the Unified Estate and Gift Tax Credit on estate tax
Who Bears the Lifetime Tax Burden
Debates about tax policy arise every year in Washington, and legislative changes occur almost as often. In just the past decade, corporate tax burdens were dramatically reduced and then subsequently
Individual Income Tax Rates and Shares, 2003
T axpayers filed 143.0 million returns for Tax Year 2007. This number does not include returns filed by individuals only to receive the economic stimulus payment and who had no other reason to file.
Income Inequality in France, 1901–1998
  • T. Piketty
  • Economics
    Journal of Political Economy
  • 2003
This paper uses data from income tax returns (1915–98), wage tax returns (1919–98), and inheritance tax returns (1902–94) in order to compute homogeneous, yearly estimates of income, wage, and wealth
An introduction to the TAXSIM model
The TAXSIM model is now 17 years old. The original tax calculator was written by Amy Taylor to estimate the effects of tax deductibility on charitable giving [Feldstein and Taylor, 1976]. The model
The Missing Motivation in Macroeconomics
Macroeconomics changed between the early 1960s and the late 1970s. The macroeconomics of the early 1960s was avowedly Keynesian. This was manifested in the textbooks of the time, which showed a