Difference Between Horizontal Equity and Vertical Equity

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: April 30, 2023


Difference Between Horizontal Equity and Vertical Equity

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Any involuntary levies, such as income, capital gains, and estate taxes, are referred to as "taxation." Taxation can be a noun or a verb, but it is most usually referred to as an act, with the revenue generated being referred to as "taxes." Taxation differs from other forms of payment in that it does not require consent and is unrelated to the services rendered. To coerce taxation, the government utilizes an implied or outright threat of force. Taxation is legally separate from extortion or a protection racket since it is imposed by the government rather than private persons.

In modern countries, taxes are the most important source of government revenue. Taxes differ from other types of revenue in that they are unrequited—that is, they are not paid in exchange for a specified service, the sale of public property, or the issuance of public debt. While taxes are theoretically collected to benefit all taxpayers, the particular taxpayer's liability has nothing to do with the precise benefit received. Payroll taxes, for example, are levied on wages to finance retirement benefits, medical payments, and other social security programs, all of which benefit the taxpayer. Because of the potential link between taxes paid and benefits received, payroll taxes are also referred to as "contributions" (as in the United States). Despite this, payments are usually necessary, and the link between payments and benefits is occasionally tenuous. The use of car fuel taxes to pay for the construction and maintenance of roads and highways, whose services can only be accessed by using taxed motor fuels, is another example of a tax with a weak link to benefits gained.

Principles of Taxation

The capacity-to-pay concept holds that taxes should be based on an individual's ability to pay, while the benefit principle holds that there should be some equivalency between what an individual pays and the benefits he receives as a result of government actions. The fourth of Smith's canons can be taken to explain why many economists stress the importance of a tax system that does not obstruct market decision-making, as well as the more evident requirement to avoid complexity and corruption.

  1. Distribution of the tax burden- Various ideologies, political forces, and ambitions can influence a government's tax policy. The following is a rundown of some of the most significant tax principles.
  2. The ability-to-pay –This concept states that the total tax burden should be distributed to individuals in proportion to their ability to bear it, taking all relevant personal variables into account. In this instance, personal levies are the most appropriate taxes (income, net worth, consumption, and inheritance taxes). Income was once universally considered the most accurate indicator of financial ability to pay.
  3. On a horizontal scale, equity- The concept of horizontal equality implies that those who are in the same or similar conditions (tax-wise) will pay the same amount of tax. In practice, this equality principle is routinely violated, both intentionally and unintentionally. Intentional breaches are typically motivated by politics rather than sound economic policy. The discussion over tax reform has centered on whether deviations from "equal treatment of equals" are permitted.
  4. Ease of administration and compliance- When considering general tax concepts, it's important to remember that taxes must be managed by a responsible body. Clarity, stability (or continuity), cost-effectiveness, and convenience are the four general conditions for good tax administration. Administrative problems are especially essential in poor nations, where illiteracy, a lack of commercial markets, a lack of accounting records, and insufficient administrative resources can make compliance and administration difficult. In these instances, harsh justice may be preferable to infeasible fine-tuning for the sake of equity.
  5. The benefit concept -The benefit idea says that taxes influence what activities the government undertakes and who pays for them, much like prices in private transactions influence what activities the government undertakes and who pays for them. If this theory were to be implemented, consumer preferences would be directly affected by public-sector resource allocation. Most government entities struggle to use the benefit principle since residents are frequently hesitant to pay for a government-provided service—such as a police department—unless they can be excluded from the advantages.

Difference Between Horizontal Equity and Vertical Equity in Tabular Form

Every society imposes a tax on its citizens. The government makes a profit from the taxes. Taxes help to fund public services. Authorities collect taxes using a variety of tax-paying mechanisms. Vertical equity and horizontal equity are examples of such systems. These procedures are followed to ensure that the process is fair and equal.

The primary distinction between horizontal and vertical equity is that they are both based on opposing concepts. Horizontal equity follows the principle of equality. However, in vertical equity, each taxpayer's ability to choose their income bracket and settle their tax is taken into account.

Parameters of Comparison    Horizontal Equity          Vertical Equity
Definition Taxes must be paid in the same way by those in similar situations. As one's income rises, so does their tax burden.
Principle Equality Ability to Pay
Redistribution Unequal, as wealthy people have more benefits Equal
Example poll tax Taxation on earnings
Tax Measurement Tax is calculated based on income and assets. The amount of tax you pay is decided by where you fall on the income scale.

What is Horizontal Equity?

According to horizontal equity, people with identical income levels must pay the same amount of taxes. It is based on the equality concept. This is a sociopolitical concept rather than a financial one. People in similar situations are treated in the same way. Biases based on caste, race, gender, or occupation are eliminated.

If three people each earn $10,000, they each pay the same amount in taxes, which in this case is $2,000. Taxpayers are not treated unfairly. Tax burdens are distributed fairly under this structure. In most cases, the tax is assessed based on the annual income. On the other side, theorists suggest that lifetime earnings should be utilized as criteria. In some cases, horizontal equity does not accurately reflect the situation. Take, for example, tobacco tax burdens. A person who does not use it is not required to pay the tax. This is a breach in terms of horizontal equity. The purpose, on the other hand, is not an issue.

This system is fair since it is built on the principle of equal worth. This system is based on distributive justice, which makes it fair. It's also employed in medical settings. Health resources are distributed based on need rather than a privilege. One of the system's flaws is the lack of tax exemptions, which discourages people from saving.

The horizontal equity hypothesis suggests that people should be treated equally by applying the same level of income tax to persons in similar income groups. Vertical equity, on the other hand, is linked to wealth redistribution and promotes a tax system in which high-income earners, or those with more resources, pay a higher tax rate than low-income earners. Horizontal equality offers a tax system that does not give individuals or businesses special treatment. It is connected to the concept of tax neutrality in that it protects taxpayers against arbitrary discrimination by ensuring that if two people are as well off before taxes, they should be similarly well off after taxes.

Some economists consider annual income as the measure of income that groups taxpayers as equals under the horizontal equity principle. Other economists argue that a taxpayer's lifetime earnings are a more accurate measure. Whether or not taxing income or consumption is consistent with horizontal fairness is determined by the definition of income used. Horizontal equity in healthcare refers to the distribution of resources among persons who have similar healthcare requirements. In effect, it functions as a health-care measure by advocating that "equal healthcare be provided for individuals who are the same in relevant regards, such as need.

For example, if two taxpayers earn $50,000, they should both be taxed at the same rate under horizontal equity since they have the same wealth or are in the same income category. Horizontal equality is difficult to accomplish in a tax system with loopholes, deductions, credits, and incentives, such as in the United States because the availability of any tax cut means that similar individuals do not pay the same rate. In our previous example, if one of the taxpayers pays less tax than the second person with equal income because of the mortgage interest deduction, then horizontal equity is not attained.

What is Vertical Equity?

The system works on a pay-as-you-go basis. The tax amount rises in proportion to the increase in income. Those who can contribute more should do so in greater proportions than those who are unable to do so. This ensures that taxes are evenly dispersed among the population. Vertical equity is aided by progressive taxation. As a result, wealthy people pay a greater tax rate than impoverished people. This approach is proportional to the total wealth created by an individual. There are three forms of equities in vertical equity: proportional, progressive, and regressive taxation.

The tax rate under progressive taxation is determined by the income category in which a person falls. A person with an income between $0 and $50000, for example, should pay a ten percent tax. A person in the following bracket, $50001 – $100000, must pay 20% of their income in taxes. As one's income rises, so do one's tax burden. Vertical equity is simpler to implement because most economies offer tax incentives such as deductions. Supporters of this system argue that because wealthier individuals demand more government services, they should pay a higher tax rate. In addition, in income-based taxation, it is easier to construct this system of taxation.

Vertical equity is a taxation mechanism in which an individual's income tax burden rises as their income rises. It is founded on the idea that those with higher incomes and assets must pay a higher income tax than those with lower incomes and assets. The horizontal equity system is the polar opposite of the vertical equity system. A tax system's equity refers to how evenly the tax burden is divided throughout the population. According to the ability to pay concept, the amount of tax an individual pays should be determined by the level of burden the tax will impose on the individual's wealth. Vertical and horizontal equities are two concepts of justice and equity derived from the ability to pay premises. People with greater incomes should pay more tax through proportionate or progressive tax rates, according to the idea of vertical equality. The amount of taxes paid rises in lockstep with income with proportional taxation. Because the effective average tax rate does not change with income, everyone pays the same proportion of their income in taxes.

Consider a taxpayer who makes $100,000 per year and another who earns $50,000 per year as an illustration of vertical equity. If the tax rate is 15% and is flat and proportional, the higher-income earner will pay $15,000 in taxes for the year, while the lower-income taxpayer will owe $7,500 in taxes. Individuals with more resources or higher income levels will always pay more tax in dollars than lower earners if the same rate is imposed across all income levels.

Difference between Horizontal Equity and Vertical Equity (In Points)

  • The idea of equal taxation is observed in horizontal equity. The ability to pay principle is applied in vertical equity.
  • Tax benefits, such as tax deductions, continue to apply under horizontal equity, making it unfair. However, vertical equity is simply applied to such benefits.
  • People of similar status are seen as equals under horizontal equity, and their taxes are the same. Vertical equity tax is calculated based on the rise in income.
  • Vertical equity allows for equal tax redistribution in society. Wealthy individuals must make greater contributions to public service. Horizontal equity does not have this problem because it is based on impartiality.
  • Horizontal equity is exemplified by a poll tax. When calculating the tax on vertical equity income, brackets are taken into account. Vertical equity is improved through income tax.


Horizontal and vertical equity is used to support a variety of viewpoints. Vertical equity's benefit concept and horizontal equity's notion of equality are both useful. These tax regimes are difficult to implement because they have several loopholes. As a result, in an economy, a combination of both can be used. Horizontal equity has several advantages. The concept of equality has been adequately preserved. It prohibits discrimination in any form. However, the tax system's loopholes make fully implementing the horizontal equity pattern difficult. Horizontal equity is measured using two principles: annual income and lifetime income.

Vertical equity is based on the fact that the wealthy can afford to pay more. People with more assets and income gain more than those with less. As a result, raising their tax is justified. High incomes, on the other hand, have access to tax preparers who can help them protect their earnings from taxation. Vertical equity uses progressive, regressive, and proportional taxation strategies.

Horizontal and vertical equity is used to support a variety of viewpoints. Vertical equity's benefit concept and horizontal equity's notion of equality are both useful. These tax regimes are difficult to implement because they have several loopholes. As a result in an economy, a combination of both can be used. Higher-earning individuals can contribute more to the public good, and this tax is shared through social security payments. Some say that this causes high-potential earners to conceal their earnings or flee the nation. For the most part, stringent taxation regimes based on vertical equity are not ideal for the wealthy. They are discouraged from accumulating more money.


  • Jean-Yves Duclos (2008). "Horizontal and vertical equity," The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, 2nd Edition. Abstract.
  • Allan M. Feldman (1987). "Equity," The New Palgrave: A Dictionary of Economics, v. 2, pp. 182–84.
  • Peter J. Hammond (1987). "Altruism," The New Palgrave: A Dictionary of Economics, v. 1, pp. 85–87.
  • Serge-Christophe Kolm ([1972] 2000). Justice and Equity. Description & chapter-preview links. MIT Press.


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"Difference Between Horizontal Equity and Vertical Equity." Diffzy.com, 2024. Tue. 27 Feb. 2024. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-horizontal-equity-and-vertical-equity-489>.

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