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Preference Heterogeneity and Optimal Capital Taxation

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  • Mikhail Golosov
  • Aleh Tsyvinsky
  • Matthew Weinzierl

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Mikhail Golosov & Aleh Tsyvinsky & Matthew Weinzierl, 2010. "Preference Heterogeneity and Optimal Capital Taxation," STICERD - Public Economics Programme Discussion Papers 07, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE.
  • Handle: RePEc:cep:stippp:07
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Henrik Jacobsen Kleven & Claus Thustrup Kreiner & Emmanuel Saez, 2009. "The Optimal Income Taxation of Couples," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 77(2), pages 537-560, March.
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    3. Mirrlees, J. A., 1976. "Optimal tax theory : A synthesis," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(4), pages 327-358, November.
    4. Saez, Emmanuel, 2002. "The desirability of commodity taxation under non-linear income taxation and heterogeneous tastes," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 83(2), pages 217-230, February.
    5. Ritva Tarkiainen & Matti Tuomala, 2007. "On optimal income taxation with heterogeneous work preferences," International Journal of Economic Theory, The International Society for Economic Theory, vol. 3(1), pages 35-46.
    6. Mikhail Golosov & Aleh Tsyvinski, 2007. "Optimal Taxation with Endogenous Insurance Markets," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(2), pages 487-534.
    7. Daniel J. Benjamin & Sebastian A. Brown & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2013. "Who Is ‘Behavioral’? Cognitive Ability And Anomalous Preferences," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 11(6), pages 1231-1255, December.
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    9. Emmanuel Saez, 2001. "Using Elasticities to Derive Optimal Income Tax Rates," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 68(1), pages 205-229.
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    12. Karen E. Dynan, 1993. "The rate of time preference and shocks to wealth: evidence from panel data," Working Paper Series / Economic Activity Section 134, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
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    Cited by:

    1. Wojciech Kopczuk, 2012. "Taxation of Intergenerational Transfers and Wealth," NBER Working Papers 18584, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Peter Diamond & Emmanuel Saez, 2011. "The Case for a Progressive Tax: From Basic Research to Policy Recommendations," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(4), pages 165-190, Fall.
    3. Golosov, Mikhail & Troshkin, Maxim & Tsyvinski, Aleh & Weinzierl, Matthew, 2013. "Preference heterogeneity and optimal capital income taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 97(C), pages 160-175.

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    JEL classification:

    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics

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