Topics in public finance: social security and taxation


Request a copy
Serval ID
PhD thesis: a PhD thesis.
Topics in public finance: social security and taxation
Huguenin O.
Bütler M.
Institution details
Université de Lausanne, Faculté des hautes études commerciales
Publication state
Issued date
Number of pages
REROID: R004103289
The field of public finance focuses on the spending and taxing activities of governments and their influence on the allocation of resources and distribution of income. This work covers in three parts different topics related to public finance which are currently widely discussed in media and politics. The first two parts deal with issues on social security, which is in general one of the biggest spending shares of governments. The third part looks at the main income source of governments by analyzing the perceived value of tax competition.
Part one deals with the current problem of increased early retirement by focusing on Switzerland as a special case. Early retirement is predominantly considered to be the result of incentives set by social security and the tax system. But the Swiss example demonstrates that the incidence of early retirement has dramatically increased even in the absence of institutional changes. We argue that the wealth effect also plays an important role in the retirement decision for middle and high income earners. An actuarially fair, but mandatory funded system with a relatively high replacement rate may thus contribute to a low labor market participation rate of elderly workers. We provide evidence using a unique dataset on individual retirement decisions in Swiss pension funds, allowing us to perfectly control for pension scheme details. Our findings suggest that affordability is a key determinant in the retirement decisions. The higher the accumulated pension capital, the earlier men, and to a smaller extent women, tend to leave the workforce. The fact that early retirement has become much more prevalent in the last 15 years is a further indicator of the importance of a wealth effect, as the maturing of the Swiss mandatory funded pension system over that period has led to an increase in the effective replacement rates for middle and high income earners.
Part two covers the theoretical side of social security. Theories analyzing optimal social security benefits provide important qualitative results, by mainly using one general type of an economy. Economies are however very diverse concerning numerous aspects, one of the most important being the wealth level. This can lead to significant quantitative benefit differences that imply differences in replacement rates and levels of labor supply. We focus on several aspects related to this fact. In a within cohort social security model, we introduce disability insurance with an imperfect screening mechanism. We then vary the wealth level of the model economy and analyze how the optimal social security benefit structure or equivalently, the optimal replacement rates, changes depending on the wealth level of the economy, and if the introduction of disability insurance into a social security system is preferable for all economies. Second, the screening mechanism of disability insurance and the threshold level at which people are defined as disabled can differ. For economies with different wealth levels, we determine for different thresholds the screening level that maximizes social welfare.
Finally, part three turns to the income of governments, by adding an element to the controversy on tax competition versus tax harmonization.2 Inter-jurisdictional tax competition can generate at least two potential benefits or costs: On a public level, tax competition may result in a lower or higher efficiency in the production of public services. But there is also a more private benefit in the form of an option for individuals to move to a community with a lower tax rate in the future. To explore the value citizens attach to tax competition we analyze a unique popular vote for a complete tax harmonization between communities in the third largest Swiss canton, Vaud. Although a majority of voters would have seemingly benefited from replacing the current tax rate by a revenue-neutral average tax rate, the proposal was rejected by a large margin. Our estimates suggest that the estimated combined perceived benefit from tax competition is in the range of 10%.
Create date
13/07/2010 15:18
Last modification date
20/08/2019 14:36
Usage data