Incidence of Taxation

Price elasticity of demand (PED), in combination with price elasticity of supply (PES), can be used to assess where the incidence (or "burden") of a per-unit tax is falling or to predict where it will fall if the tax is imposed. For example, when demand is perfectly inelastic, by definition consumers have no alternative to purchasing the good or service if the price increases, so the quantity demanded would remain constant. Hence, suppliers can increase the price by the full amount of the tax, and the consumer would end up paying the entirety. In the opposite case, when demand is perfectly elastic, by definition consumers have an infinite ability to switch to alternatives if the price increases, so they would stop buying the good or service in question completely—quantity demanded would fall to zero. As a result, firms cannot pass on any part of the tax by raising prices, so they would be forced to pay all of it themselves. In practice, demand is likely to be only relatively elastic or relatively inelastic, that is, somewhere between the extreme cases of perfect elasticity or inelasticity. More generally, then, the higher the elasticity of demand compared to PES, the heavier the burden on producers; conversely, the more inelastic the demand compared to PES, the heavier the burden on consumers. The general principle is that the party (i.e., consumers or producers) that has fewer opportunities to avoid the tax by switching to alternatives will bear the greater proportion of the tax burden. In the end the whole tax burden is carried by individual households since they are the ultimate owners of the means of production that the firm utilises (see Circular flow of income). (Source: Wikipedia - Price elasticity of demand)