Economic efficiency is a traditional and still dominant topic of economic research. However, in the last forty years, and especially in recent times, economists increasingly emphasise the importance of studying the issues of equity in the distribution of income. It has become evident that economic analysis is not comprehensive enough if it does not deal with both economic efficiency and equity. Welfare economics conceptualises social welfare as a function that embodies both the level of total income and its distribution. Therefore, maximization of this function implies achieving a degree of compromise between economic efficiency and equity in the distribution of income.
Establishing its foundations on the theoretical framework that links the concepts of efficiency and equity, this project deals with the impact of taxes and social benefits on income distribution and economic efficiency. Taxes and social benefits have a redistributive function, but at the same time they affect the allocation of production factors and final products, and therefore affect efficiency. Accordingly, in designing and reforming taxes and social benefits, it is necessary to take into account both equity and efficiency.
The project is empirically oriented, and its purpose is twofold. The first purpose is to improve the methodology of empirical analysis of the impact of taxes and social benefits on income distribution and economic efficiency. These improvements will allow for more comprehensive and precise analyses that can yield new empirical insights. The planned improvements are: (1) to upgrade the miCROmod by including the module for simulation of indirect taxes, (2) to improve the credibility of survey data on income distribution, in the sense that top incomes in the sample are a representative reflection of those in the population, (3) to change the way how the contribution of indirect taxes to the effective tax rate is determined.
The second purpose of the project is to conduct several empirical analyses of the impact of taxes and social benefits on income distribution and economic efficiency in Croatia. One part of the analyses relies on standard empirical practice in this area. The other part relates to certain improvements of standard research practices. The set of analyses to be performed within the project includes: estimating the levels and trends of income inequality; assessing the impact of direct and indirect taxes and social benefits on inequality, poverty and work incentives; assessing the optimal taxation of the highest incomes; estimating social preferences towards the redistribution of income.
The improvements of selected aspects of empirical analysis in this area contribute to international academic literature by introducing novelties that can affect the results of analyses carried out by numerous researchers; new findings can improve current knowledge. Empirical research for Croatia will offer results usable in considering the often-invoked reforms of the tax-benefit system. Although the project does not address all relevant empirical issues, it makes initial steps towards establishing a culture of evidence-based public debate on the desirability and adequacy of public policies.
Details of the project are available in the Croatian Research Information System and a list of published articles in the Croatian scientific bibliography.
Program: Croatian Science Foundation research projects