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Taxing capital income: a bad idea

  • Andrew Atkeson
  • V.V. Chari
  • Patrick J. Kehoe

Under a narrow set of assumptions, Chamley (1986) established that the optimal tax rate on capital income is eventually zero. This study examines and extends that result by relaxing Chamley’s assumptions, one by one, to see if the result still holds. It does. This study unifies the work of other researchers, who have confirmed the result independently using different types of models and approaches. This study uses just one type of model (discrete time) and just one approach (primal). Chamley’s result holds when agents are heterogeneous rather than identical, the economy’s growth rate is endogenous rather than exogenous, the economy is open rather than closed, and agents live in overlapping generations rather than forever. (With this last assumption, the result holds under stricter conditions than with the others.)

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Article provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis in its journal Quarterly Review.

Volume (Year): (1999)
Issue (Month): Sum ()
Pages: 3-17

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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedmqr:y:1999:i:sum:p:3-17:n:v.23no.3
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  1. 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 473-91, June.
  2. Feldstein, Martin S, 1978. "The Welfare Cost of Capital Income Taxation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(2), pages S29-51, April.
  3. Barro, Robert J, 1974. "Are Government Bonds Net Wealth?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(6), pages 1095-1117, Nov.-Dec..
  4. 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 617-52, August.
  5. Lucas, Robert Jr. & Stokey, Nancy L., 1983. "Optimal fiscal and monetary policy in an economy without capital," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(1), pages 55-93.
  6. Chari, V V & Kehoe, Patrick J, 1990. "Sustainable Plans," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(4), pages 783-802, August.
  7. Carlos Garriga-Calvet, 2000. "Optimal Fiscal Policy in Overlapping Generations Models," Econometric Society World Congress 2000 Contributed Papers 1772, Econometric Society.
  8. Jones, Larry E. & Manuelli, Rodolfo E. & Rossi, Peter E., 1997. "On the Optimal Taxation of Capital Income," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 73(1), pages 93-117, March.
  9. 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.
  10. Chamley, Christophe, 1986. "Optimal Taxation of Capital Income in General Equilibrium with Infinite Lives," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 54(3), pages 607-22, May.
  11. Stokey, Nancy L., 1991. "Credible public policy," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 15(4), pages 627-656, October.
  12. Aiyagari, S Rao, 1995. "Optimal Capital Income Taxation with Incomplete Markets, Borrowing Constraints, and Constant Discounting," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(6), pages 1158-75, December.
  13. 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.
  14. Assaf Razin & Joel Slemrod, 1990. "Taxation in the Global Economy," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number razi90-1, December.
  15. David Cass, 1964. "Optimum Economic Growth in an Aggregative Model of Capital Accumulation: A Turnpike Theorem," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 178, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  16. Alan J. Auerbach, 1982. "The Theory of Excess Burden and Optimal Taxation," NBER Working Papers 1025, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Pestieau, P. M., 1974. "Optimal taxation and discount rate for public investment in a growth setting," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 3(3), pages 217-235, August.
  18. 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.
  19. Atkinson, A B, 1971. "Capital Taxes, the Redistribution of Wealth and Individual Savings," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 38(114), pages 209-227, April.
  20. Lucas, Robert E, Jr, 1990. "Supply-Side Economics: An Analytical Review," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 42(2), pages 293-316, April.
  21. Zhu, Xiaodong, 1992. "Optimal fiscal policy in a stochastic growth model," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 58(2), pages 250-289, December.
  22. V.V. Chari & Patrick J. Kehoe & Edward C. Prescott, 1988. "Time consistency and policy," Staff Report 115, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
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