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On the Optimal Taxation of Capital Income

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  • Larry E. Jones
  • Rodolfo E. Manuelli
  • Peter E. Rossi

Abstract

One of the best known results in modern public finance is the Chamley-Judd result showing that the optimal tax rate on capital income is zero in the long-run. In this paper, we reexamine this result by analyzing a series of generalizations of the Chamley-Judd formulation. We show that in a model with human capital, if the tax code is sufficiently rich and there are no pure profits from accumulating human capital, then all distorting taxes are zero in the long-run under the optimal plan. In this sense, income from physical capital is not special. To gain a better understanding of these two conditions, we study examples in which they are not satisfied and show that the optimal tax rate on income from physical capital does not go to zero. In those cases where the limiting tax rate is non-zero, we calculate its value for alternative specifications of the marginal welfare cost of taxation. Our results indicate that even for conservative specifications, tax rates of 10% and higher are possible under the optimal code.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 4525.

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Date of creation: Nov 1993
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Publication status: published as Journal of Economic Theory, Vol. 73, no. 1 (March 1997): 93-117.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:4525

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  1. Barro, Robert J., 1990. "Government Spending in a Simple Model of Endogeneous Growth," Scholarly Articles 3451296, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  2. 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.
  3. Alan J. Auerbach, 1982. "The Theory of Excess Burden and Optimal Taxation," NBER Working Papers 1025, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Chamley, Christophe, 1985. "Efficient Taxation in a Stylized Model of Intertemporal General Equilibrium," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 26(2), pages 451-68, June.
  5. Sanford J Grossman & Oliver D Hart, 2001. "An Analysis of the Principal-Agent Problem," Levine's Working Paper Archive 391749000000000339, David K. Levine.
  6. Kenneth L. Judd, 1982. "Redistributive Taxation in a Simple Perfect Foresight Model," Discussion Papers 572, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  7. Lucas, Robert E, Jr, 1990. "Supply-Side Economics: An Analytical Review," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 42(2), pages 293-316, April.
  8. Joseph E. Stiglitz, 1987. "Pareto Efficient and Optimal Taxation and the New New Welfare Economics," NBER Working Papers 2189, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. 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.
  10. Atkinson, A B & Sandmo, A, 1980. "Welfare Implications of the Taxation of Savings," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 90(359), pages 529-49, September.
  11. Zhu, Xiaodong, 1992. "Optimal fiscal policy in a stochastic growth model," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 58(2), pages 250-289, December.
  12. Kenneth L. Judd, 1984. "The Welfare Cost of Factor Taxation in a Perfect Foresight Model," Discussion Papers 643, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  13. Stiglitz, Joseph E & Dasgupta, P, 1971. "Differential Taxation, Public Goods and Economic Efficiency," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 38(114), pages 151-74, April.
  14. Chamley, Christophe, 1986. "Optimal Taxation of Capital Income in General Equilibrium with Infinite Lives," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 54(3), pages 607-22, May.
  15. Lucas, Robert Jr., 1988. "On the mechanics of economic development," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 3-42, July.
  16. Jones, Larry E & Manuelli, Rodolfo E & Rossi, Peter E, 1993. "Optimal Taxation in Models of Endogenous Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(3), pages 485-517, June.
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  1. Should human capital be taxed?
    by Economic Logician in Economic Logic on 2010-10-12 15:56:00
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