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Top incomes and top taxes in Germany

Publication Date
  • H24
  • D31
  • H26
  • Ddc:330
  • Income Distribution
  • Personal Income Tax
  • Taxing The Rich
  • Einkommensverteilung
  • Reichtum
  • Einkommensteuer
  • Steuerbelastung
  • Deutschland
  • Economics


We analyze the distribution and taxation of top incomes in Germany during the 1990s on the basis of individual tax returns data. We derive a measure of economic income from taxable gross income as reported in the tax returns. Thanks to complete sampling, we can deliver a very precise description of very high incomes, in terms of both distribution and composition by source. We also provide a measure of the effective average rate of taxation for various income groups. Our main findings are as follows: (i) incomes are highly concentrated in Germany, more than commonly thought; (ii) the German economic elite relies much less than elites in France or the US upon income from wages and salaries; (iii) income taxes are highly concentrated in Germany, more than commonly thought; (iv) although effective tax rates are significantly lower than statutory ones, the income tax is effectively progressive; (v) income taxation substantially reduces income inequality in Germany.

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