A Theory of Optimal Capital Taxation
AbstractThis paper develops a realistic, tractable normative theory of socially-optimal capital taxation. We present a dynamic model of savings and bequests with heterogeneous random tastes for bequests to children and for wealth per se. We derive formulas for optimal tax rates on capitalized inheritance expressed in terms of estimable parameters and social preferences. The long-run optimal tax rate increases with the aggregate steady-state flow of inheritances to output, decreases with the elasticity of bequests to the net-of-tax rate, and decreases with the strength of preferences for leaving bequests. For realistic parameters, the optimal tax rate on capitalized inheritance should be as high as 50%-60% - or even higher for top wealth holders - if the government has meritocratic preferences (i.e., puts higher welfare weights on those receiving little inheritance) and if capital is highly concentrated (as it is in the real world). In contrast to the Atkinson-Stiglitz result, bequest taxation remains desirable in our model even with optimal labor taxation because inequality is two-dimensional: with inheritances, labor income is no longer the unique determinant of lifetime resources. In contrast to Chamley-Judd, positive capital taxation is desirable because our preferences allow for finite long run elasticities of inheritance to tax rates. Finally, we discuss how capital market imperfections and uninsurable shocks to rates of return can justify shifting one-off inheritance taxation toward lifetime capital taxation, and can account for the actual structure and mix of inheritance and capital taxation.
Download InfoIf you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 8946.
Date of creation: Apr 2012
Date of revision:
Contact details of provider:
Postal: Centre for Economic Policy Research, 77 Bastwick Street, London EC1V 3PZ
Phone: 44 - 20 - 7183 8801
Fax: 44 - 20 - 7183 8820
Other versions of this item:
- H10 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - General
This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:
- NEP-ACC-2012-05-02 (Accounting & Auditing)
- NEP-ALL-2012-05-02 (All new papers)
- NEP-DGE-2012-05-02 (Dynamic General Equilibrium)
- NEP-PBE-2012-05-02 (Public Economics)
You can help add them by filling out this form.
Blog mentionsAs found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.Access and download statisticsgeneral information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ().
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.