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Capital Taxation and Ownership when Markets are Incomplete

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  • Emmanuel Farhi

Abstract

This paper analyzes the theoretical and quantitative implications of optimal capital taxation in the neoclassical growth model with aggregate shocks and incomplete markets. The model features a representative-agent economy with proportional taxes on labor and capital. I first consider the case that the only asset the government can trade is a real risk-free bond. Taxes on capital are set one period in advance, reflecting inertia in tax codes and ruling out replication of the complete markets allocation. Because capital income varies with the state of the economy, capital taxation provides a state contingent source of revenues. I thus identify a novel potential role for capital taxation as a risk sharing instrument between the government and private agents. However, this benefit must be weighted again the distortionary cost of capital taxation. For a baseline case, the optimal policy features a zero tax on capital. Moreover, numerical simulations show that the baseline case provides an excellent benchmark. I next allow the government to hold a non trivial position in capital. Capital ownership provides the same benefit or risk sharing but without the cost of tax distortions. In a variety of quantitative exercises, I show that capital ownership allows the government to realize about 90% of the welfare gains from moving to complete markets. Large positions are typically required for optimality. But smaller positions achieve substantial benefits. In a business-cycle simulation, I show that a 15% short equity position achieves over 40% of the welfare gains from completing markets.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 13390.

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Date of creation: Sep 2007
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Publication status: published as Emmanuel Farhi, 2010. "Capital Taxation and Ownership When Markets Are Incomplete," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 118(5), pages 908 - 948.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13390

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  1. Atkinson, A. B. & Stiglitz, J. E., 1972. "The structure of indirect taxation and economic efficiency," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 97-119, April.
  2. Buera, Francisco & Nicolini, Juan Pablo, 2004. "Optimal maturity of government debt without state contingent bonds," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 51(3), pages 531-554, April.
  3. Judd, Kenneth L., 1985. "Redistributive taxation in a simple perfect foresight model," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 59-83, October.
  4. V.V. Chari & Lawrence J. Christiano & Patrick J. Kehoe, 1993. "Optimal fiscal policy in a business cycle model," Staff Report 160, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  5. S. Rao Aiyagari & Albert Marcet & Thomas J. Sargent & Juha Seppala, 2002. "Optimal Taxation without State-Contingent Debt," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(6), pages 1220-1254, December.
  6. Barro, Robert J, 1979. "On the Determination of the Public Debt," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(5), pages 940-71, October.
  7. Robert E. Lucas Jr. & Nancy L. Stokey, 1982. "Optimal Fiscal and Monetary Policy in an Economy Without Capital," Discussion Papers 532, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  8. Zhu, Xiaodong, 1992. "Optimal fiscal policy in a stochastic growth model," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 58(2), pages 250-289, December.
  9. Chamley, Christophe, 1986. "Optimal Taxation of Capital Income in General Equilibrium with Infinite Lives," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 54(3), pages 607-22, May.
  10. Andrew Atkeson & V.V. Chari & Patrick J. Kehoe, 1999. "Taxing capital income: a bad idea," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Sum, pages 3-17.
  11. George-Marios Angeletos, 2002. "Fiscal Policy With Noncontingent Debt And The Optimal Maturity Structure," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 117(3), pages 1105-1131, August.
  12. Bohn, Henning, 1990. "Tax Smoothing with Financial Instruments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(5), pages 1217-30, December.
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