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Vertical Equity


Vertical Equity is a concept in taxation, which promotes greater fairness by taxing individuals or entities based on their ability to pay. This means those who have more income or wealth, pay a higher proportion of their income in taxes compared to those with less income. It’s designed to redistribute wealth more equally across society, thereby reducing income inequality.


The phonetic pronunciation of “Vertical Equity” is: /ˈvɜr tɪ kəl ˈɛkwɪti/

Key Takeaways

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  1. Vertical Equity is a method of taxation where individuals with higher incomes are taxed at a higher rate compared to those with lower incomes. This principle aims to ensure fairness in taxation by considering the payer’s ability to pay.
  2. Vertical Equity is a progressive system, which means the tax rate progresses from low to high. It’s based on the assumption that those who earn more can afford to pay more taxes, hence helping to reduce income inequality.
  3. One potential drawback of Vertical Equity is that it may discourage individuals from earning more to avoid higher tax brackets. However, proponents argue that it is a crucial tool for promoting social justice and economic equality.

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Vertical equity is a crucial principle in business and finance as it directly relates to fairness in economic and tax systems. It signifies that people with differing abilities to pay should be taxed differently, hence proposing that those with higher income should bear a higher tax burden compared to those with a lower income. This principle has significant implications on governmental policy decisions and income distribution methods. It influences the structuring of progressive tax systems and government programs aimed at income redistribution, helping to reduce income inequality and ensure a fairer distribution of resources within society. It’s about ensuring social justice, promoting economic fairness, and enhancing societal cohesion by fostering equitable and inclusive economic systems.


Vertical Equity is an essential principle in taxation and public economics whose primary purpose is to impose greater tax liabilities on those with higher ability to pay. It’s rooted in the idea of fairness, suggesting that individuals with more financial assets or higher incomes should pay more taxes than those who earn less. Vertical Equity is used as the foundational concept behind progressive tax systems, where tax rates increase with the rise in income, in order to distribute the tax burden fairly among different income groups.The application of vertical equity is aimed at reducing income inequality and promoting social justice. It supports the notion of wealth redistribution where higher-income groups subsidize public services for lower-income groups through their higher tax contribution. This principle also guides policymaking for social benefits, like housing or healthcare subsidies, with the objective of equitably distributing societal resources. Ultimately, vertical equity works to balance economic disparity within a population and uphold the notion of equality of opportunity.


1. Progressive Tax System: In many countries, a progressive tax system is employed to ensure vertical equity. This means that individuals or businesses who earn more income, pay a higher percentage of that income as tax. This is seen as fair because those who have a greater ‘ability to pay’ make a larger contribution. For instance, in the United States, the federal income tax system is a prime example of vertical equity where the tax rate increases as the taxable income increases.2. Healthcare Financing: Many healthcare systems worldwide practice vertical equity by charging for services based on income. Those with higher incomes pay more for the same service than those with lower incomes. This is intended to ensure that all individuals have equal access to healthcare services, regardless of income.3. Tuition Fees: Some universities and colleges operate on the principle of vertical equity, adjusting tuition fees based on the financial circumstances of the student or their family. This allows students from lower-income families to pay less for the same education as those from higher-income families. This practice, often part of a financial aid program, supports equal access to education.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is Vertical Equity?

Vertical Equity is a method of taxation where individuals or businesses with lower incomes pay fewer taxes than those with higher incomes. This concept is based on the belief that those who are more capable of paying should contribute more to the state’s funding.

How does Vertical Equity differ from Horizontal Equity?

While Vertical Equity focuses on the different tax payments based on different income levels, Horizontal Equity establishes that individuals with the same income should pay the same amount of taxes.

Why is Vertical Equity significant in tax policy?

Vertical Equity is significant because it promotes a system in which the tax burden is distributed fairly. People with greater financial ability contribute a larger amount, reducing the financial pressure on those who earn less.

How is Vertical Equity applied practically?

Vertical Equity is applied practically via progressive tax systems. In such systems, the tax rate increases as the taxable amount increases, ensuring that people with higher incomes pay proportionally more tax.

What is an example of Vertical Equity in action?

An example of Vertical Equity in action is the US federal tax system, which operates on a progressive scale. This means that those who make more money are moved into higher tax brackets and are taxed at a higher rate.

Are there any criticisms of Vertical Equity?

Yes, some critics argue that Vertical Equity may discourage economic growth by potentially dissuading higher earners (who contribute more taxes) from wanting to earn more. However, proponents of Vertical Equity argue that it fosters a fairer and more balanced society.

How does Vertical Equity contribute to social equality?

By placing a larger tax burden on those with higher incomes, Vertical Equity aids in the redistribution of wealth. This contributes to social equality by helping to reduce income inequality.

What is another term for Vertical Equity?

Vertical Equity can also be referred to as ‘vertical fairness’ or ‘ability to pay principle’. These terms similarly express the concept that those with greater incomes should carry a larger portion of the tax burden.

Related Finance Terms

  • Tax Progressivity
  • Income Inequality
  • Redistributive Policies
  • Income Distribution
  • Progressive Taxation

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