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Can Capital Income Taxes Survive in Open Economies?

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  • Roger H. Gordon

Abstract

Recent theoretical work has argued that a small open economy should use residence-based but not source-based taxes on capital income. Given the ease with which residents can evade domestic taxes on foreign earnings from capital, however, a residence-based tax may not be administratively feasible, leaving no taxes on capital income. The objective of this paper is to explore possible reasons why capital income taxes have survived in the past, in spite of the above pressures. Any bilateral approach, such as sharing of information among governments or direct coordination of tax rates, suffers from the problem that the coalition of countries is itself a small open economy, so subject to the same pressures. Capital controls, preventing capital outflows, may well be a sensible policy response and were in fact used by a number of countries. Such controls have many drawbacks, however, and a number of countries are now abandoning them. The final hypothesis explored is that the tax-crediting conventions, used to prevent the double taxation of international capital flows, served also to coordinate tax rates. The paper shows that while no Nash equilibrium in tax rates exists, given these tax-crediting conventions, a Stackelberg equilibrium does exist if there is either a dominant capital exporter or a dominant capital importer, in spite of the ease of tax evasion. While the U.S. , as the dominant capital exporter during much of the postwar period, may well have served as this Stackelberg leader, world capital markets are now more complicated. These tax-crediting conventions may no longer be sufficient to sustain capital-income taxation.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 3416.

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Date of creation: Aug 1990
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Publication status: published as Journal of Finance Vol. 47,. No. 3, pp. 1159-1180 July 1992
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:3416

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  1. Alan J. Auerbach, 1988. "Retrospective Capital Gains Taxation," NBER Working Papers 2792, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. 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.
  3. Bond, E.W. & Samuelson, L., 1988. "Strategic Behavior And The Rules For International Taxation Of Capital," Papers 3-88-10, Pennsylvania State - Department of Economics.
  4. Gordon, Roger H, 1983. "An Optimal Taxation Approach to Fiscal Federalism," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 98(4), pages 567-86, November.
  5. Hans-Werner Sinn, 1990. "Can Direct and Indirect Taxes Be Added for International Comparisons of Competitiveness?," NBER Working Papers 3263, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Findlay, Christopher C, 1986. "Optimal Taxation of International Income Flows," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 62(177), pages 208-14, June.
  7. Hartman, David G., 1985. "Tax policy and foreign direct investment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 107-121, February.
  8. Roger H. Gordon & Hal R. Varian, 1986. "Taxation of Asset Income in the Presence of a World Securites Market," NBER Working Papers 1994, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Peter A. Diamond & J. A. Mirrlees, 1968. "Optimal Taxation and Public Production," Working papers 22, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  10. Assaf Razin & Efraim Sadka, 1990. "Capital Market Integration: Issues of International Taxation," NBER Working Papers 3281, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Giovannini, A. & Hines, J.R.J., 1990. "Capital Flight And Tax Competition: Are There Viable Solutions To Both Problems?," Papers 51, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - Discussion Paper.
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