The elasticity of taxable income of individuals in couples

  • John Creedy
  • Norman GemmellEmail author


This paper examines the effect on the elasticity of taxable income for individuals in couples, where there is no income splitting for tax purposes but joint decisions are taken regarding taxable incomes. Two approaches are considered. First, the effects of minimising the total tax increase arising from a marginal rate increase are examined. Second, the paper considers the effects of joint utility maximisation. In both cases, analytical results suggest the possibility that empirical taxable income elasticity estimates obtained while ignoring the distinction between individuals and couples can be biased, sometimes substantially. Thus, in the presence of individual income taxation, both taxable income elasticity and revenue response estimates could be expected to be quite different when those estimates are obtained while erroneously treating the behaviour of members of couple households as if they were separate individuals.


Income taxation Taxable income Elasticity of taxable income 

JEL Classification

H24 H31 H26 



This paper is part of a larger project on ‘Improving New Zealand’s Tax Policy via International Tax Transfer Model Benchmarking’, funded by an Endeavour Research Grant from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and awarded to the Chair in Public Finance. We are grateful to two referees for comments on an earlier version.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Victoria Business SchoolVictoria University of WellingtonWellingtonNew Zealand

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