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Optimal Taxes without Commitment

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  • Benhabib, Jess
  • Rustichini, Aldo

Abstract

In the problem of optimal taxation in an economy with two productive factors, labor and capital, the optimal solution when the government can commit to a sequence of tax rates, has the tax on capital tending to zero in the limit, with all the tax burden on labour. It is well known, however, that this solution is time inconsistent; so if the commitment power is not perfect, this second best tax plan will not be suitable. We model explicitly the tradeoff between the cost of revising the tax plan, and the benefit of the revision.
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Suggested Citation

  • Benhabib, Jess & Rustichini, Aldo, 1997. "Optimal Taxes without Commitment," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 77(2), pages 231-259, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jetheo:v:77:y:1997:i:2:p:231-259
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    1. Kemp, Murray C & Long, Ngo Van & Shimomura, Koji, 1993. "Cyclical and Noncyclical Redistributive Taxation," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 34(2), pages 415-429, May.
    2. Chari, V V & Christiano, Lawrence J & Kehoe, Patrick J, 1994. "Optimal Fiscal Policy in a Business Cycle Model," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(4), pages 617-652, August.
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    4. Chari, V. V. & Christiano, Lawrence J. & Eichenbaum, Martin, 1998. "Expectation Traps and Discretion," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 81(2), pages 462-492, August.
    5. V. V. Chari & Patrick J. Kehoe, 1993. "Sustainable Plans and Mutual Default," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 60(1), pages 175-195.
    6. Marcet, Albert & Marimon, Ramon, 1992. "Communication, commitment, and growth," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 58(2), pages 219-249, December.
    7. Judd, Kenneth L., 1985. "Redistributive taxation in a simple perfect foresight model," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 59-83, October.
    8. Stokey, Nancy L., 1991. "Credible public policy," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 15(4), pages 627-656, October.
    9. Chamley, Christophe, 1986. "Optimal Taxation of Capital Income in General Equilibrium with Infinite Lives," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 54(3), pages 607-622, May.
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    12. Kydland, Finn E & Prescott, Edward C, 1977. "Rules Rather Than Discretion: The Inconsistency of Optimal Plans," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 85(3), pages 473-491, June.
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    JEL classification:

    • D90 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - General
    • H20 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - General
    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation

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