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Why Governments Should Tax Mobile Capital in the Presence of Unemployment


  • Koskela Erkki

    () (University of Helsinki and CESifo)

  • Schöb Ronnie

    () (Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg and CESifo)


This paper shows that a small open economy that suffers from involuntary unemployment should levy a positive source-based tax on capital income. A revenue-neutral tax reform that increases the capital tax rate and reduces the labour tax rate will induce firms to substitute labour for capital. Such a tax reform will lower the marginal cost of production, increase output, reduce unemployment, and increase domestic welfare as long as the labour tax rate exceeds the capital tax rate. The result holds even though trade unions might succeed in subsequently increasing the net-of-tax wage rate, if the elasticity of substitution between capital and labour is above a critical value (which is itself below one). Finally, and importantly, independent of the size of the elasticity of substitution, the government can promote wage moderation and reduce unemployment by increasing the personal tax credit of employed workers instead of reducing the labour tax rate.

Suggested Citation

  • Koskela Erkki & Schöb Ronnie, 2002. "Why Governments Should Tax Mobile Capital in the Presence of Unemployment," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 1(1), pages 1-22, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:bpj:bejeap:v:contributions.1:y:2002:i:1:n:1

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Breyer, Friedrich & Kolmar, Martin, 2002. "Are national pension systems efficient if labor is (im)perfectly mobile?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 83(3), pages 347-374, March.
    2. Buiter, Willem H, 1981. "Time Preference and International Lending and Borrowing in an Overlapping-Generations Model," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(4), pages 769-797, August.
    3. Persson, Torsten, 1985. "Deficits and intergenerational welfare in open economies," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(1-2), pages 67-84, August.
    4. Luca Beltrametti & Luigi Bonatti, 1997. "On pension policies in open economies," Department of Economics Working Papers 9706, Department of Economics, University of Trento, Italia.
    5. Casarico, Alessandra, 1998. "Pension Reform and Economic Performance under Imperfect Capital Markets," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 108(447), pages 344-362, March.
    6. Stefan Homburg & Wolfram Richter, 1993. "Harmonizing public debt and public pension schemes in the European community," Journal of Economics, Springer, vol. 7(1), pages 51-63, December.
    7. Pemberton, James, 1999. "Social Security: National Policies with International Implications," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 109(457), pages 492-508, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Erkki Koskela & Ronnie Schöb, 2005. "Optimal capital taxation in economies with unionized and competitive labour markets," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 57(4), pages 717-731, October.
    2. Wehke, Sven, 2009. "Union wages, hours of work and the effectiveness of partial coordination agreements," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(1), pages 89-96, January.
    3. Koskela, Erkki & Schob, Ronnie, 2002. " Optimal Factor Income Taxation in the Presence of Unemployment," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 4(3), pages 387-404.
    4. Friedrich Breyer & Andreas Haufler, 2000. "Health Care Reform: Separating Insurance from Income Redistribution," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 7(4), pages 445-461, August.
    5. Ronnie Schöb, 2003. "The Double Dividend Hypothesis of Environmental Taxes: A Survey," CESifo Working Paper Series 946, CESifo Group Munich.
    6. Martin Weiss, 2009. "Higher Tax Rates on Labor? Evidence from German Panel Data," FinanzArchiv: Public Finance Analysis, Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 65(1), pages 73-92, March.
    7. Riedl, Arno & van Winden, Frans, 2012. "Input versus output taxation in an experimental international economy," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 56(2), pages 216-232.
    8. Koskela, Erkki & Schöb, Ronnie, 2007. "How Tax Progression Affects Effort and Employment," IZA Discussion Papers 2861, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    9. Stefan Boeters, 2004. "Green Tax Reform and Employment: The Interaction of Profit and Factor Taxes," FinanzArchiv: Public Finance Analysis, Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 60(2), pages 222-222, August.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H2 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue
    • J5 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining


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