, Volume 131, Issue 1-2, pp 141-155

Political support and tax reforms with an application to Italy

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In 2001 the Italian government introduced a personal income tax reform to be implemented in successive phases. In 2004 taxes were reduced to all income levels with higher gains for low-income and high-income individuals than for middle-income ones. A large debate arised. This paper explores the political economy reasons under this tax reform, mainly the attempt of the government to attract the uncertain voters (swing voters). A probabilistic voting model is introduced to capture the importance of swing voters. The model predicts that the average personal income tax rate tends to be lower for groups of lower income, higher preference for leisure and containing more politically mobile voters (swing voters). However, data from Italian polls show that, while the tax reform was a good strategy to attract swing voters, the specific design of the reform, which favored high-income and low-income individuals, but not the middle class, was not the more appropriate strategy.