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Preference Heterogeneity and Optimal Capital Taxation

  • Mikhail Golosov
  • Aleh Tsyvinsky
  • Matthew Weinzierl

We analytically and quantitatively examine a prominent justification for capital income taxation: goods preferred by those with high ability ought to be taxed. We study an environment where commodity taxes are allowed to be nonlinear functions of income and consumption and find that, when ability is positively related to a preference for a good, optimal marginal commodity taxes on this good may be regressive: i.e., declining with income. We derive an analytical expression for optimal commodity taxation, allowing us to study the forces for and against regressivity. We then parameterize the model to evidence on the relationship between skills and preferences and examine the quantitative case for taxes on future consumption (saving). The relationship between skill and time preference delivers quantitatively small, generally regressive capital income taxes and would justify only a fraction of the prevailing level of capital income taxation.

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File URL: http://sticerd.lse.ac.uk/dps/pep/pep07.pdf
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Paper provided by Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE in its series STICERD - Public Economics Programme Discussion Papers with number 07.

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Date of creation: Jun 2010
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Handle: RePEc:cep:stippp:07
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://sticerd.lse.ac.uk/_new/publications/default.asp

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  1. Mikhail Golosov & Narayana Kocherlakota & Aleh Tsyvinski, 2003. "Optimal Indirect and Capital Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 70(3), pages 569-587.
  2. Mikhail Golosov & Aleh Tsyvinski, 2006. "Optimal Taxation with Endogenous Insurance Markets," Levine's Bibliography 784828000000000445, UCLA Department of Economics.
  3. Daniel J. Benjamin & Sebastian A. Brown & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2006. "Who is “Behavioral”? Cognitive Ability and Anomalous Preferences," Levine's Working Paper Archive 122247000000001334, David K. Levine.
  4. Mikhail Golosov & Aleh Tsyvinski & Ivan Werning, 2007. "New Dynamic Public Finance: A User's Guide," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2006, Volume 21, pages 317-388 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Samwick, Andrew A., 1998. "Discount rate heterogeneity and social security reform," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(1), pages 117-146, October.
  6. Hammond, Peter J, 1987. "Markets as Constraints: Multilateral Incentive Compatibility in Continuum Economies," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 54(3), pages 399-412, July.
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