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Working Paper
Anàlisi de Sistemes Impositius
Sara Torregrosa Hetland

2014/08 : A fiscal revolution? Progressivity in the Spanish tax system, 1960-1990

The main objective of this paper is to calculate the distribution of the tax burden across income levels in Spain between 1960 and 1990. The chosen period covers the final years of Franco’s dictatorship and the first ones of the present parliamentary regime, and is thus meant to explore how political change was reflected on taxation. Does transition entail a fiscal revolution? Here is one case study developed and compared to other national experiences. Effective tax reform seems to have been politically blocked during the dictatorship, with public budgets growing fundamentally on the grounds of social security contributions. Democracy brought about a comprehensive transformation starting in 1977, which aimed at improving fairness (progressivity) and increasing revenue (to fund the development of the Welfare State). In this work I analyse whether the reforms entailed effective changes in the distribution of the tax burden, by imputing tax collection to taxpayers, based on income and consumption micro-data from Household Budget Surveys. The results show a persistent (albeit decreasing) regressivity in the tax system, which caused an increasingly negative redistribution of income. Pre-Tax incomes grew unequal during the period and net incomes even more so as a result: the tax reform did not fulfill its equalizing promises. The joint effect of the fiscal system, however, seems to have been slightly positive due to progressive social spending.

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