On optimal commodity taxes when consumption is time consuming

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This paper studies the problem of optimal taxation of commodities when consumption is a time-consuming activity. This is done under two distinct preference separability assumptions: between goods and labor supply, and between goods and leisure. It argues that with the labor separability, the traditional uniform taxation results of optimal tax theory continue to hold. With leisure separability, on the other hand, consumption time is a major ingredient of optimal tax rates. However, the relationship between consumption time and optimal tax rates depends crucially on the representation of the economy. In representative consumer economies, time differences determine the pattern of optimal tax rates so that goods whose consumption take more time are subjected to higher tax rates. When individuals have different earning abilities, redistributive, incentive, and efficiency considerations also come into play resulting in a complex relationship. The paper derives formulas for optimal commodity taxes in this case on the basis of three different tax structures: linear commodity taxes in combination with linear and nonlinear income taxes, and nonlinear commodity taxes in combination with nonlinear income taxes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-27
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Public Economic Theory
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Finance
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics


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