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Optimal redistributive capital taxation in a neoclassical growth model

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  • Kevin J. Lansing

Abstract

This paper provides a counterexample to the simplest version of the redistribution models considered by Judd (1985) in which the government chooses an optimal distortionary tax on capitalists to finance a lump-sum payment to workers. I show that the steady-state optimal tax on capital income is generally non-zero when the capitalists' utility is logarithmic and the government faces a balanced-budget constraint. With log utility, agents' optimal decisions depend solely on the current rate of return, not any future rates of return or tax rates. This feature of the economy effectively deprives the government of a useful policy instrument because promises about future tax rates can no longer influence current allocations. When combined with a lack of other suitable policy instruments (such as government bonds), the result is an inability to decentralize the allocations that are consistent with a zero limiting capital tax. I show that the standard approach to solving the dynamic optimal tax problem yields the wrong answer in this (knife-edge) case because it fails to properly enforce the constraints associated with the competitive equilibrium. Specifically, the standard approach lets in an additional policy instrument through the back door.

Suggested Citation

  • Kevin J. Lansing, 1998. "Optimal redistributive capital taxation in a neoclassical growth model," Working Papers in Applied Economic Theory 99-01, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, revised 1998.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedfap:99-01
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    Cited by:

    1. Angelopoulos, Konstantinos & Jiang, Wei & Malley, James, 2011. "The distributional consequences of tax reforms under market distortions," SIRE Discussion Papers 2011-73, Scottish Institute for Research in Economics (SIRE).
    2. Konstantinos Angelopoulos & Bernardo X. Fernandez & Jim Malley, 2011. "The Distributional Consequences of Supply-Side Reforms in General Equilibrium," CESifo Working Paper Series 3504, CESifo.
    3. Guo, Jang-Ting & Lansing, Kevin J., 1999. "Optimal taxation of capital income with imperfectly competitive product markets," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 23(7), pages 967-995, June.
    4. Angelopoulos, Konstantinos & Fernandez, Bernardo X. & Malley, James R., 2010. "The Distributional Consequences of Supply-Side Reforms in General Equilibrium," SIRE Discussion Papers 2010-85, Scottish Institute for Research in Economics (SIRE).
    5. Erkki Koskela & Leopold von Thadden, 2008. "Optimal Factor Taxation under Wage Bargaining: A Dynamic Perspective," German Economic Review, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 9, pages 135-159, May.
    6. Wei Jiang, 2014. "Optimal taxation and labour wedge in models with equilibrium unemployment," Studies in Economics 1407, School of Economics, University of Kent.
    7. Nicolas Dromel & Patrick-Antoine Pintus, 2006. "Are Progressive Fiscal Rules Stabilizing?," Université Paris1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Post-Print and Working Papers) halshs-00410452, HAL.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Fiscal policy;

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