Tax Wedge

Aug 29, 2022 By Triston Martin

Tax wedges are the difference between pre-tax and after-tax income. The tax wedge measures how much government gets due to taxing labor. Tax wedge can refer to the inefficiency of markets that occurs by imposing a tax on a service or product. The tax changes demand and supply equilibrium, creating an unintended wedge of deadweight loss.

Understanding the Tax Wedge

Many employees are taxed and have their taxes taken from their pay, which means their home-based pay is lower than the total salary or wage and the costs of hiring them. Tax wedge refers to the amount employees make in their earnings and the cost to hire the employees (labor cost) or the dollar value of the tax rate on income. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development defines tax wedges as the proportion of tax that an average worker (a single person earning 100 percent of their average earnings) with no children and the associated total cost of labor to the company. Some believe tax wedges on investment income can decrease savings and lower living standards.

The decline in net income could result in employees deciding not to be as productive or to seek other methods to retain more of their earnings (by taking advantage of government benefits, for example). When applications for government benefits increase, the workforce suffers because those who stay require higher salaries, which leads employers to lower their hiring rates.

How Does a Tax Wedge Work?

For instance, John Doe earns $100,000 as a salary for the year and is required to pay a federal tax of 28% and an additional 11% state and local tax on his income. The net income is the amount of $61,000 to his household after tax. Suppose the income tax rate increases to 35 percent at the Federal level and 15 percent at the state and local levels. John earns $50,000 of his earnings; after that, John and many others realize that the work isn't worthwhile; that they'll be able to find other ways to retain more of what they earn (or take less work but bring home the exact amount) through investing, working in the kitchen or taking state benefits in lieu.

The workforce participation is impacted—the demand for benefits from the government increases. Still employed workers require higher wages from their employers to ensure they make enough money after taxes. This leads firms to employ fewer employees (or outsource) to pay for their existing employees.

Tax Wedge and Market Inefficiency

Tax wedges can determine the proportion of market inefficiency caused by sales tax. When a service or product is taxed, price and quantity change. The resultant price or quantity that differs from equilibrium is the tax wedge. The inefficiency of markets that result from a tax wedge can result in the consumer paying more and the producer receiving less in return for the product than they would have before taxation due to greater prices for equilibrium paid by consumers and lower production quantities by producers. In essence, the sales tax generates an effective "wedge" between the price consumers pay and what producers pay for the product.


It is extremely helpful in calculating the proportion of inefficiencies in the marketplace caused by the sales tax. It is a great tool for analyzing the total tax burden on employment and labor in any country. It helps to evaluate better the economic consequences of employer and employee social insurance, which is often overlooked in the tax sector. It can help generate government income and leverages inefficiencies in markets for financial services. The higher the percentage in tax wedges, the greater the chances for the same to exist in an informal rather than a formal sector. In an informal environment, an adjustment in tax wedge may affect only the total employment but have a greater influence on wage levels.


A tax wedge is an inconsistency between net and gross income after taxes are removed. In the case of a progressive tax system, the tax wedge is merely a difference in mechanism; it could be able to increase marginally depending on the increase in income. It could be utilized to determine the number of market inefficiencies incurred due to sales tax. The inefficiencies in the financial markets caused by the tax wedge taxes could allow the buyer to pay a little more. The manufacturer or the supplier receives a lower price in exchange for their goods or services compared to the amount they usually pay/receive before tax implications due to the higher price of equilibrium that the buyers pay and the smaller quantity of equilibrium quantities the manufacturer or supplier offers.

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