Deadweight Loss Of Taxation

Deadweight Loss Of Taxation

What is a deadweight loss of taxation

The deadweight loss in taxation refers to the damage caused to economic efficiency and production by a tax. In other words, the deadweight loss in taxation is a measure of the extent to which taxes reduce the standard of living of the taxed population.

The English economist Alfred Marshall (1842-1924) is widely recognized for developing the first analysis of dead weight loss.


The difference between the imposition of new taxes and the total reduction in production due to these new taxes is the deadweight loss. Once a tax is imposed, it forces the supply curve for certain goods, services or consumer spending to the left along the demand curve. A deadweight loss in taxation is generally represented graphically.

In other words, the variation between the two levels of production, when measuring additional net revenue for the government, is less than the loss of production, except in cases where the supply curve is perfectly flat or vertical. .

Imagine that the United States federal government imposes a 40% income tax on all citizens. With this tax, the government will collect an additional $ 1.2 trillion in taxes. However, these funds, which are now going to the government, are no longer available for spending on the private markets. Suppose consumer spending and investment decrease by at least $ 1.2 trillion and total production decreases by $ 2 trillion. In this case, the deadweight loss is $ 800 billion. ($ 2 trillion in total production minus $ 1.2 trillion in consumer spending or investment is equivalent to a gross loss of $ 800 billion).

Causes of dead weight loss

Not everyone agrees that dead weight loss can be measured accurately. However, almost all economists recognize that taxation is ineffective and distorts the free market.

Taxes result in a higher cost of production or a higher purchase price on the market. This, in turn, creates a smaller volume of production than would otherwise exist. The difference between taxed and untaxed production volumes is the deadweight loss.

Neoclassical analysis indicates that the amount of losses depends on the shapes and elasticities of the supply and demand curves.

Taxation reduces returns on investments, wages, rents, entrepreneurship and inheritance. This in turn reduces the incentive to invest, work, deploy assets, take risks and save. It also encourages taxpayers to spend time and money trying to avoid their tax burden, thereby diverting more precious resources from other productive uses.

Most governments levy taxes disproportionately on different people, goods, services and activities. This distorts the natural distribution of resources in the market. Limited resources will shift from their otherwise optimal use, away from heavily taxed activities and towards lightly taxed activities, which may not be as beneficial.

Deadweight loss in public spending and inflation

The economic aspects of taxation also apply to other forms of public funding. If the government funds activities through government bonds instead of immediate taxation, the deadweight loss is only delayed until higher future taxes are levied to repay the debt. Deficit spending is also crowding out current private investment and redirecting current production, which is determined by subjective consumer assessments, away from its most efficient areas.

The deadweight loss in inflation is nuanced. Inflation reduces the production volume of the economy in three ways:

  • Individuals divert resources to counter-inflationary activity

  • Governments pledge to increase spending and finance deficit, also known as the “hidden tax”
  • Expectations of future inflation reduce current private spending.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *