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Taxation of Interest Income

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  • Roger Gordon

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Abstract

Why is interest income taxed so much more heavily than other forms of capital income? This differential tax treatment has generated substantial tax arbitrage, resulting in lower tax revenue, efficiency costs, and apparently net gains to rich borrowers and net losses to poor lenders, together suggesting that this tax treatment makes no sense on welfare grounds. In examining this argument more formally, this paper reveals two omitted considerations that can help explain the existing tax treatment. First, the forecasted increase in the market interest rate results in a redistribution from rich borrowers to poor lenders. Yet this redistribution comes at no marginal efficiency cost, starting from a situation with no distortions to portfolio choice, so at the margin dominates further redistribution through the income tax. In addition, information about an individual's portfolio choice reveals information about her earnings ability, even controlling for observed labor income, if those who are more able tend to be less risk averse. By making use of this extra information about earnings ability, the tax system can be better tailored to redistribute from able to less able, for any given efficiency cost. Copyright Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

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File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1023/B:ITAX.0000004780.68743.0d
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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Springer in its journal International Tax and Public Finance.

Volume (Year): 11 (2004)
Issue (Month): 1 (January)
Pages: 5-15

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Handle: RePEc:kap:itaxpf:v:11:y:2004:i:1:p:5-15

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Web page: http://www.springerlink.com/link.asp?id=102915

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Keywords: taxation of interest income; taxation and portfolio choice; optimal taxation;

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References

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  1. Naito, Hisahiro, 1999. "Re-examination of uniform commodity taxes under a non-linear income tax system and its implication for production efficiency," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 71(2), pages 165-188, February.
  2. Emmanuel Saez, 2000. "The Desirability of Commodity Taxation under Non-Linear Income Taxation and Heterogeneous Tastes," NBER Working Papers 8029, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Roger H. Gordon & Joel Slemrod, 1988. "Do We Collect Any Revenue from Taxing Capital Income?," NBER Chapters, in: Tax Policy and the Economy: Volume 2, pages 89-130 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Gordon, Roger H, 1985. "Taxation of Corporate Capital Income: Tax Revenues versus Tax Distortions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 100(1), pages 1-27, February.
  5. Mirrlees, James A, 1971. "An Exploration in the Theory of Optimum Income Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 38(114), pages 175-208, April.
  6. Atkinson, A. B. & Stiglitz, J. E., 1976. "The design of tax structure: Direct versus indirect taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(1-2), pages 55-75.
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Cited by:
  1. Stefania Albanesi, 2007. "Optimal taxation of entrepreneurial capital with private information," Discussion Papers 0607-11, Columbia University, Department of Economics.
  2. Peter Diamond & Johannes Spinnewijn, 2011. "Capital Income Taxes with Heterogeneous Discount Rates," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 3(4), pages 52-76, November.
  3. David Hargreaves, 2008. "The tax system and housing demand in New Zealand," Reserve Bank of New Zealand Discussion Paper Series DP2008/06, Reserve Bank of New Zealand.

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