Viewpoint: Empirical evidence and tax policy design: lessons from the Mirrlees Review


  • The author is also Research Director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies. A longer version of this presentation will appear as the Munich Lectures 2011. I would like to thank participants at those lectures and at the CEA meeting for comments. I also thank the editor David Green for helpful suggestions. Finally, I am grateful to my co-authors and co-editors on the Mirrlees Review for the many discussions over the course of the Review and to the ESRC and Nuffield Foundation for financial support. Email:


Abstract This paper examines the role of evidence in drawing up the recommendations for tax reform in the Mirrlees Review. The arguments are organised loosely under five related headings: (i) Key margins of adjustment. (ii) Measurement of effective tax rates. (iii) The importance of information and complexity. (iv) Evidence on the size of responses. (v) Implications from theory for tax design. Although the Mirrlees Review focuses on all aspects of tax reform, the focus is this paper is on the taxation of earnings with some examples drawn from the taxation of consumption and savings.


Ce mémoire examine le rôle des résultats dans la confection des recommandations pour la réforme fiscale dans l'enquête Mirrlees. Les arguments sont regroupés sous cinq rubriques: (i) les importantes marges d'ajustement, (ii) la mesure des taux d'imposition effective, (iii) l'importance de l'information et de la complexité, (iv) constat sur la taille des réponses, et (v) les implications pour la théorie du design des politiques d'imposition. Même si l'enquête Mirrlees a examiné tous les aspects de la réforme fiscale, ce texte met l'accent sur l'impôt sur les rémunérations avec quelques exemples portant sur l'impôt sur la consommation et l'épargne.