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Tax Wedge


The tax wedge is a measure of the market distortion caused by taxation. It is the difference between before-tax and after-tax wages that the worker receives, taking all the taxes and deductions into account. In other words, it represents the earning that the government receives from employees’ salaries and business profits.


The phonetics of the keyword ‘Tax Wedge’ is: tæks wɛʤ.

Key Takeaways

  1. Tax Wedge Definition: Tax wedge is the difference between before-tax and after-tax wages of employees. In more general terms, it represents the discorporation between the price paid by consumers and what is received by producers due to taxes.
  2. Impact on Economy: The tax wedge is an important concept in economics because it helps understand how taxes affect the supply and demand balance. A high tax wedge may lead to market distortions, reducing employment levels or discouraging investment.
  3. Measurement and Variation: Tax wedge is measured as a percentage of labor costs. This percentage can vary greatly depending on various factors such as the tax system in a particular country, whether we’re looking at individual or corporate taxes, and the specific types of taxes considered.


The concept of the Tax Wedge in business and finance is critical as it indicates the difference between what employees take home in earnings and what it costs to employ them, or the disparity between the pre-tax and post-tax return on an investment. Essentially, this term references the divergence created by income tax and other taxes on labor or capital. It plays a crucial role in the decisions of both employees and employers, influencing employment rates, wages, and work hours. Moreover, the tax wedge significantly affects capital investment decisions by modifying the relative returns on investment. Therefore, understanding the tax wedge can provide insights about a country’s labor market efficiency and the overall economic health.


The Tax Wedge serves an essential purpose in understanding the discrepancy between what employers pay for an employee’s services and what the employee ultimately receives as net income. This concept is critical because it encompasses all the tax liabilities that both employers and employees are obliged to pay, such as income tax and social security contributions. The tax wedge is the measure that helps quantify these compulsory payments, thus offering a perspective on the overall tax burden levied on labor income.

The tax wedge is mainly used by economists and policymakers to comprehend how taxes influence economic behavior and the labor market. The size of the tax wedge can affect decisions about whether to enter the labor market or make an extra effort to earn more, as it reduces the net return to work. Therefore, higher tax wedges can discourage work and entrepreneurship, reducing employment levels and economic growth in a certain jurisdiction. Conversely, lower tax wedges might encourage workforce participation and lead to higher employment rates. Thus, the tax wedge serves as an important tool in assessing and shaping tax policy in a given country.


1. Payroll Taxes: In many countries, including the US, employees’ total income includes both their wages and the payroll taxes their employers pay on their behalf. However, employees only receive their wages after payroll taxes are deducted. The difference between the total wage costs to employers (wages plus payroll taxes) and the net wage received by employees is an example of a tax wedge.

2. Sales Tax: Let’s consider a customer who desires to purchase a product priced at $100, but due to a 7% sales tax, needs to pay $107 to complete the transaction. Here, the tax wedge is the $7 difference between the price set by the vendor (supply side) and the actual amount paid by the customer (demand side).

3. Import duties: If a company wants to import goods from another country, the government often imposes an import tax. If the company imports a machine worth $10,000 and the import duty is 10%, the total cost for buying the machine is $11,000. The $1,000 difference is a tax wedge, increasing the cost of the transaction between the domestic company and the foreign supplier.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is a Tax Wedge?

A Tax Wedge refers to the difference between the amount that an employer pays in wages and what the employee actually receives after all taxes have been deducted. It represents the diverging effects of taxes on the supply and demand for goods, services, labor, and capital.

How is a Tax Wedge calculated?

A Tax Wedge is calculated by subtracting the after-tax income from the before-tax income, then dividing that number by the before-tax income. The result is often expressed as a percentage.

Why is the Tax Wedge significant in economics?

The Tax Wedge is significant in economics as it provides insight into how tax policies impact economic behavior and efficiency. It influences decisions about working, saving, and investing, potentially causing economic distortions if the wedge becomes too large.

How does a Tax Wedge differ from the marginal Tax rate?

A Tax Wedge includes all taxes levied on labor income, including payroll and income taxes, while the marginal tax rate only refers to the rate on the last dollar of income earned. Therefore, Tax Wedge gives a more comprehensive view of total tax burden on labor income.

How can a Tax Wedge impact the labor market?

A high Tax Wedge can discourage people from working or working more hours, as they take home less of their gross wage. Similarly, it can discourage employers from hiring more staff as the total cost of employment (wage plus employer’s social security contribution) is higher.

How does a Tax Wedge affect investments?

Higher Tax Wedges can discourage investments. Investors take home less profit due to the higher tax liabilities, making the risk reward proposition less appealing.

Can the Tax Wedge be different in different countries?

Yes, the Tax Wedge varies significantly across countries due to different tax policies and systems. The OECD provides a comparison of Tax Wedges across its member and partner countries.

What is a negative Tax Wedge?

A negative Tax Wedge is a situation whereby the government provides a subsidy to the consumers or producers of a good or service. It reduces the price paid by consumers and increases the price received by producers, encouraging production and consumption.

Related Finance Terms

  • Gross Income: The total income earned by a business before deductions such as taxes and operating expenses.
  • Net Income: The amount of revenue remaining for a business after all expenses and taxes have been deducted.
  • Direct Tax: A tax that is paid directly to the government by the individuals or organizations on whom it is imposed, such as income tax.
  • Indirect Tax: A tax paid to the government by one entity in the supply chain, but then passed on to the consumer as part of the purchase price of a good or service.
  • Tax Rate: The percentage at which an individual or corporation is taxed.

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