Income Taxes and Redistribution in the Early Twentieth Century

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This paper studies the developments in the income taxes of Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States during the first half of the twentieth century. We present the evolution of marginal and average effective tax rates, number of taxpayers, and income tax due over the whole income distribution, and calculate the corresponding indices of progressivity and redistribution.
Our results show that redistribution through the income tax increased during the period, but with varying intensity and mechanisms. During World War I this was a joint effect of increases in the amount of revenue collected (average effective tax rate) and progressivity, whereas during World War II revenue increased again but progressivity diminished, as the tax incorporated more low- and middle-income taxpayers. The income tax in the United Kingdom was always the most redistributive of the three, and after 1945 also the one that remained most progressive.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages47
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Publication series

NameLund Papers in Economic history
PublisherDepartment of Economic history, Lund University

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Economic History

Free keywords

  • Taxation
  • Redistribution
  • Progressivity
  • Income tax
  • World Wars
  • H23
  • H24
  • N42
  • N44


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