Horizontal Equity vs Vertical Equity: Difference and Comparison

Horizontal equity and vertical equity are such systems. These systems are followed to keep the process fair and maintain equality.


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Key Takeaways

  1. Horizontal equity treats individuals with equal income or wealth fairly and consistently regarding taxation.
  2. Vertical equity emphasizes that individuals with higher income or wealth should contribute more taxes, promoting a progressive tax system.
  3. Both principles aim to create a just tax system, with horizontal equity ensuring fairness among equals and vertical equity addressing income inequality.

Horizontal Equity vs Vertical Equity

The difference between horizontal equity and vertical equity is that both are based on contrasting principles. The concept of equality is followed by horizontal equity. But in vertical equity, the ability of each taxpayer is taken into consideration to select their income bracket and finalize their tax.

Horizontal Equity vs Vertical Equity

There are various advantages to horizontal equity. The concept of equality is well maintained. It prevents any form of discrimination.

Therefore, it is justifiable to increase their tax. But high earners have access to tax preparers to help them protect their income against taxation. Progressive, regressive, and proportional methods of taxation are applied in vertical equity.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonHorizontal EquityVertical Equity
DefinitionPeople in similar circumstances must pay identical taxes.Tax increases with an increase in income.
PrincipleEquality Ability to pay
RedistributionUnequal, as wealthy people have more benefitsEqual
ExamplePoll taxIncome tax
Tax measurementTax is measured according to income and assets.Tax is determined according to the place in income brackets.

What is Horizontal Equity?

Horizontal equity suggests that people with the same income levels must pay the same amount of taxes. It is based on equality. This is a socio-political concept rather than a financial concept.

The tax is commonly measured according to the annual income. However, theorists believe that lifetime income must be considered as the measuring yardstick.

There are cases in which horizontal equity does not match the situation. Consider the example of tobacco tax burdens. People who don’t use it don’t have to pay the tax.

The health resources are distributed according to the needs and not based on privileges. The disadvantages of this system include a lack of encouragement towards savings as there are no tax exemptions.

What is Vertical Equity?

This system is based on the ability-to-pay system. The tax amount increases with the rise in income. Those who can pay more should contribute in large amounts than those who don’t have such income.

Vertical equity involves progressive taxation. Hence, the rich pay more taxes than the poor. This system is proportional to the total wealth created by an individual.

Vertical equity is easier to apply as, in most economies, there are tax benefits like deductions. Supporters of this system preach that wealthy people require more government services, and thus they should pay more tax.

Main Differences Between Horizontal Equity and Vertical Equity

  1. Vertical equity enables equal redistribution of tax in society. Wealthy people must contribute more to public service. This is absent in horizontal equity as it is based on impartiality.
  2. A poll tax is an example of horizontal equity. In vertical equity income, brackets are taken into account while determining the tax. Income tax improves vertical equity.
  1. https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/abs/10.1086/NTJ41788830
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0168851096008512
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