Économie et Statistique n° 413 Differing Price Adjustments to Rises and Falls in VAT Rates - The Regressive Nature of Indirect Taxes - Accounting Methodology for Assessing the Cost of Capital for French Companies (1984-2002)
The Regressive Nature of Indirect Taxes: Lessons from a Micro-Simulation Model
French indirect taxation includes taxes on value (VAT, tax on insurance agreements, etc.) and, for some goods (alcohol, tobacco, petroleum products, etc.), duties on quantities consumed (or excise duties) which are added to VAT. For all goods, taxes and excise duties can represent a single implicit tax on value. Indirect taxation is a disproportionate burden on lower-income households, which spend a much higher proportion of their budgets on goods which are subject to excise duties than more affluent households. The first income decile spends 4.3% of its income on these taxes; the last decile just 1.3%. The measure of the impact of a reform (in the form of a change in rates or in excise duties by means of their implicit levels) assumes that we can model consumer responses to products which are subject to this type of taxation. To this end, for these products we estimate price-flexibilities and income-flexibilities which are then integrated into a micro-simulation model. These flexibilities are derived from supply functions estimated using “personalised” price indexes which in each major area of spending make use of differences in consumption patterns between different households. This aims to build variability into the price indexes. This model allows us to measure the impact of two measures, the first of which spaces out the VAT rates, while the second increases excise duties and reduces the rate of VAT (both reforms were drawn up using constant budget balances). Each gives rise to a tax burden transfer of limited extent, which favours low-earners in the first instance and disadvantages them in the second. The relative similarity of the average consumption profiles by income decile and the wide variation between consumer profiles within each decile lessen the impact of these reforms on redistribution.