Higher taxes negatively impact the number of people willing to work as illustrated by the Laffer Curve.

laffer-curve

The marginal tax rate is measured on the vertical axis, and total tax revenues are measured on the horizontal axis. Note that the Laffer Curve is backward-bending, reflecting the behavioral notion that at some point, people will work less the more they are taxed. This backward bend means that above a certain tax rate, “m” in the figure, an increase in the tax rate will cause overall tax revenues to fall.

For a supply-side tax cut to increase tax revenues, the existing tax rate before the tax cut must be above “m,” perhaps at a rate associated with point “n” on the curve. The tax rate being above “m” is an important point because, in the early 1980s, the Reagan Administration’s economists believed that the economy was on the backward-bending portion of the Laffer curve (above “m”) and that a tax cut would increase total tax revenues. Based on this assumption, it moved forward with one of the largest tax cuts in American history.

<< Back to Glossary Index