This paper proposes a first step towards a positive theory of tax instruments. We present a model of redistributive politics that extends those of Myerson [R. Myerson, Incentives to cultivate minorities under alternative electoral systems, Amer. Polit. Sci. Rev. 87 (1993) 856-869] and Lizzeri and Persico [A. Lizzeri, N. Persico, The provision of public goods under alternative electoral incentives, Amer. Econ. Rev. 91 (2001) 225-239]. Two politicians compete in terms of targeted redistributive promises financed through distortionary taxes. We solve for the case of both targetable and non-targetable taxes. We prove that there is an imperfect efficiency-targetability trade off on the tax side. Politicians prefer targetable taxes over non-targetable ones, especially when the latter are less efficient. Yet, targetable taxation is always used even when it is very inefficient compared to non-targetable taxes.

Journal of Economic Theory
Erasmus School of Economics

Crutzen, B., & Sahuguet, N. (2009). Redistributive politics with distortionary taxation. Journal of Economic Theory, 144(1), 264–279. doi:10.1016/j.jet.2008.04.004