On the optimal design of transfers and income-tax progressivity

We study the optimal design of means-tested transfers and progressive income taxes. In a simple analytical model, we show that adding a transfer to a log-linear tax induces welfare gains almost as large as in the second-best allocation. Transfers allow for more progressive average than marginal tax-and-transfer rates, achieving redistribution while preserving efficiency. In a rich dynamic model, we quantify the optimal fiscal plan. We use new flexible functions featuring targeted transfers and progressive income taxes, delivering a good empirical fit across the income distribution. Transfers should be larger than currently in the U.S. and financed with moderate income-tax progressivity.