Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Discussion Papers,
Norwegian School of Economics, Department of Business and Management Science

No 2014/33: Optimal Redistribution and Monitoring of Labor Effort

Floris T. Zoutman () and Bas Jacobs ()
Additional contact information
Floris T. Zoutman: Dept. of Business and Management Science, Norwegian School of Economics, Postal: NHH , Department of Business and Management Science, Helleveien 30, N-5045 Bergen, Norway
Bas Jacobs: Dept. of Economics, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Postal: Erasmus University Rotterdam, Erasmus School of Economics, Department of Economics, office H9-33, PO Box 1738, 3000 DR Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Abstract: This paper extends the Mirrlees (1971) model of optimal non-linear income taxation with a monitoring technology that allows the government to verify labor effort at a positive, but non-infinite cost. We analyze the joint determination of the non-linear monitoring and tax schedules and the conditions under which these can be implemented. Monitoring of labor effort reduces the distortions created by income taxation and raises optimal marginal tax rates, possibly above 100 percent. The optimal intensity of monitoring increases with the marginal tax rate and the labor-supply elasticity. Our simulations demonstrate that monitoring strongly alleviates the trade-off between equity and efficiency as welfare gains of monitoring are around 1.4 percent of total output. The optimal intensity of monitoring follows a U-shaped pattern, similar to that of optimal marginal tax rates. Our paper can explain why large welfare states optimally rely on work-dependent tax credits, active labormarket policies, benefit sanctions and work bonuses in welfare programs to redistribute income efficiently.

Keywords: Optimal non-linear taxation; monitoring; costly verification ability/effort; optimal redistribution

JEL-codes: H21; H24; H26; H31

33 pages, September 24, 2014

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