Wednesday, December 12, 2012

High Tax Rates Reduce Worked Hours And GDP Per Capita

From the Wall Street Journal, "Prescott and Ohanian: Taxes Are Much Higher Than You Think" by Edward Prescott and Lee Ohanian:
High tax rates—on both labor income and consumption—reduce the incentive to work by making consumption more expensive relative to leisure, for example. The incentive to produce goods for the market is particularly depressed when tax revenue is returned to households either as government transfers or transfers-in-kind—such as public schooling, police and fire protection, food stamps, and health care—that substitute for private consumption.

In the 1950s, when European tax rates were low, many Western Europeans, including the French and the Germans, worked more hours per capita than did Americans. Over time, tax rates that affect earnings and consumption rose substantially in much of Western Europe. Over the decades, these have accounted for much of the nearly 30% decline in work hours in several European countries—to 1,000 hours per adult per year today from around 1,400 in the 1950s.

Changes in tax rates are also important in accounting for the increase in the number of hours worked in the Netherlands in the late 1980s, following the enactment of lower marginal income-tax rates.

In Japan, the tax rate on earnings and consumption is about the same as it is in the U.S., and the average Japanese worker in 2007 (the last nonrecession year) worked 1,363 hours—or about the same as the 1,336 worked by the average American.

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