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Determining the motives for a positive optimal tax on capital

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  • William B. Peterman

Abstract

Previous literature demonstrates that in a computational life cycle model the optimal tax on capital is positive and large. Given the computational complexities of these overlapping generations models it is helpful to determine the relative importance of the economic factors driving this result. I highlight the impact of changing two common assumptions in a benchmark model that generates a large optimal tax on capital similar to the model in Conesa et al. (2009). First, the utility function is altered such that it implies an agent's Frisch labor supply elasticity is constant, as opposed to increasing, over his lifetime. Second, the government is allowed to tax accidental bequests at a separate rate from ordinary capital income. The main finding of this paper is that these two changes cause the optimal tax on capital to drop by almost half. Furthermore, I find that the welfare costs of adopting the high optimal tax on capital from the benchmark model in the model with the altered assumptions, which calls for a lower tax on capital, are equivalent to 0.35 percent of total lifetime consumption. Quantifying the impact of these assumptions in the benchmark model is important because the first has limited empirical evidence and the second, although included for tractability, confounds a motive for taxing capital with a motive for taxing accidental bequests.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.) in its series Finance and Economics Discussion Series with number 2011-55.

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Date of creation: 2011
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgfe:2011-55

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Keywords: Capital ; Taxation;

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References

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  1. Lucas, Robert Jr. & Stokey, Nancy L., 1983. "Optimal fiscal and monetary policy in an economy without capital," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(1), pages 55-93.
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  3. Makoto Nakajima, 2010. "Optimal capital income taxation with housing," Working Papers 10-11, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
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Cited by:
  1. Peterman, William B., 2013. "Determining the motives for a positive optimal tax on capital," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 265-295.
  2. William Peterman, 2012. "The Effect of Endogenous Human Capital Accumulation on Optimal Taxation," 2012 Meeting Papers 204, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  3. Cassou, Steven P. & Gorostiaga, Arantza & Uribe-Zubiaga, Iker, 2013. "Policy effects of the elasticity of substitution across labor types in life cycle models," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 35(C), pages 59-70.
  4. William B. Peterman, 2012. "An extensive look at taxes: how does endogenous retirement affect optimal taxation?," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2012-28, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).

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