2 February 2024

Pierre Boyer is one of the three young economists, apart from the two winners, who were selected by the jury bringing together representatives of the Circle of Economists and the World for their work relating to applied economics and promoting public debate.

How did you get a taste for economics?

I grew up in the 1990s, the era of mass unemployment and debates about the single currency and inflation. I wanted to understand the world around me. My research topics led me to political economy and then tax reforms, always around State intervention and the question of the acceptability of reforms. Economics is often criticized for making prescriptions that do not take political constraints into account, the typical example being that of the carbon tax, popular with economists, but difficult to implement. I seek to understand which economic policies are feasible and under what conditions.

In particular, you have worked on the issue of tax consent, which is currently of concern to the executive…

Yes, in 2022 I participated in the development of a barometer on tax collection, as a member of the Council for compulsory levies, an independent body attached to the Court of Auditors. We sought to understand what were the determinants of the political acceptability of taxes and tax citizenship. The two are not necessarily linked: you can pay your taxes while finding the system unfair. It turns out that what best explains consent to taxation is the perception of the management of public money, the feeling that it is well used and not wasted. It is not tax justice, contrary to what one might think.

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If you defend a reform by relying on the argument of tax justice, you only get part of the population on board, while that of the use of public money is consensual. We will have finer data this fall, working with the tax administration and INSEE, which will allow us to compare the results of the survey with the tax data (anonymized) of the people surveyed. This will tell us about the gap between people’s perception of the taxes they pay and the reality.

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You also looked at the popularity of the major tax reforms carried out in Europe and the United States in the early 1980s and 1990s…

Yes, I wanted to understand how these reforms, which ultimately favored the top of the income scale with significant tax cuts, could have been accepted politically. What my work shows is that these reforms were able to take place because they also benefited households in the middle of the income scale. Lowering taxes only on high incomes does not work politically. On the other hand, we can lower taxes on the richest and, since the measures are not reserved for them, have the support of half the population.

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