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Pareto-Improving Optimal Capital and Labor Taxes

We show a standard model where the optimal tax reform is to cut labor taxes and leave capital taxes very high in the short and medium run. Only in the very long run would capital taxes be zero. Our model is a version of Chamley??s, with heterogeneous agents, without lump sum transfers, an upper bound on capital taxes, and a focus on Pareto improving plans. For our calibration labor taxes should be low for the first ten to twenty years, while capital taxes should be at their maximum. This policy ensures that all agents benefit from the tax reform and that capital grows quickly after when the reform begins. Therefore, the long run optimal tax mix is the opposite from the short and medium run tax mix. The initial labor tax cut is financed by deficits that lead to a positive long run level of government debt, reversing the standard prediction that government accumulates savings in models with optimal capital taxes. If labor supply is somewhat elastic benefits from tax reform are high and they can be shifted entirely to capitalists or workers by varying the length of the transition. With inelastic labor supply there is an increasing part of the equilibrium frontier, this means that the scope for benefitting the workers is limited and the total benefits from reforming taxes are much lower.

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Paper provided by Unitat de Fonaments de l'Anàlisi Econòmica (UAB) and Institut d'Anàlisi Econòmica (CSIC) in its series UFAE and IAE Working Papers with number 733.08.

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Length: 54
Date of creation: 19 Feb 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:aub:autbar:733.08
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  1. Niepelt, Dirk, 2002. "Tax Smoothing versus Tax Shifting," Seminar Papers 711, Stockholm University, Institute for International Economic Studies.
  2. Lawrence J. Lau & Yingyi Qian & Gerard Roland, 1997. "Reform without Losers: An Interpretation of China's Dual-Track Approach to Transition," Working Papers 97048, Stanford University, Department of Economics.
  3. Conesa, Juan Carlos & Krueger, Dirk, 2005. "On the Optimal Progressivity of the Income Tax Code," CEPR Discussion Papers 5040, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. Iván Werning, 2007. "Optimal Fiscal Policy with Redistribution," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 122(3), pages 925-967, 08.
  5. Floden, Martin, 2006. "Why Are Capital Income Taxes So High?," SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance 623, Stockholm School of Economics.
  6. Ellen McGrattan & Richard Rogerson & Randall Wright, 1995. "An equilibrium model of the business cycle with household production and fiscal policy," Staff Report 191, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  7. Albert Marcet & Francesc Obiols-Homs & Philippe Weil, 2003. "Incomplete Markets, Labor Supply and Capital Accumulation," Sciences Po publications 659, Sciences Po.
  8. Faraglia, Elisa & Marcet, Albert & Scott, Andrew, 2010. "In search of a theory of debt management," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(7), pages 821-836, October.
  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. Correia, Isabel, 1995. "Efficiency and Equity: Is There a Trade-off?," CEPR Discussion Papers 1218, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  11. David Domeij & Jonathan Heathcote, 2004. "On The Distributional Effects Of Reducing Capital Taxes," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 45(2), pages 523-554, 05.
  12. V. V. Chari & Patrick J. Kehoe, 1999. "Optimal Fiscal and Monetary Policy," NBER Working Papers 6891, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Judd, Kenneth L., 1985. "Redistributive taxation in a simple perfect foresight model," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 59-83, October.
  14. S. Rao Aiyagari, 1994. "Optimal capital income taxation with incomplete markets, borrowing constraints, and constant discounting," Working Papers 508, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  15. 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.
  16. Lucas, Robert E, Jr, 1990. "Supply-Side Economics: An Analytical Review," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 42(2), pages 293-316, April.
  17. Andrew Atkeson & V.V. Chari & Patrick J. Kehoe, 1999. "Taxing capital income: a bad idea," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Sum, pages 3-17.
  18. Giannitsarou, Chryssi, 2006. "Supply-side reforms and learning dynamics," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(2), pages 291-309, March.
  19. Teresa Garcia-Milà & Albert Marcet & Eva Ventura, 2010. "Supply Side Interventions and Redistribution," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 120(543), pages 105-130, 03.
  20. Marcet, A. & Marimon, R., 1998. "Recursive Contracts," Economics Working Papers eco98/37, European University Institute.
  21. Chamley, Christophe, 1986. "Optimal Taxation of Capital Income in General Equilibrium with Infinite Lives," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 54(3), pages 607-22, May.
  22. Chamley, Christophe, 2001. "Capital income taxation, wealth distribution and borrowing constraints," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 79(1), pages 55-69, January.
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