Lucy Barnes, Julia de Romément, Benjamin E Lauderdale, “Public Preferences over Changes to the Composition of Government Tax Revenue”

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How governments raise revenue through taxes is at the core of domestic political conflict. While public opinion towards taxation is measured in general by many surveys, previous research has not closely linked public preferences to the budget problem faced by governments of how best to raise or cut a marginal quantity of revenue. We present results from a novel tax preference experiment in which respondents are given choices over different tax ‘levers’ that are expected to raise or cut equal revenue. We find that in the UK there are substantial differences in public preferences for different tax levers, preferences are largely symmetric over tax increases and cuts, and there is remarkably little partisan difference in which tax levers are preferred. The current tax equilibrium can be be understood in terms of political forces outside of public opinion that resist relatively popular taxes being raised and relatively unpopular taxes being cut.

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