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Optimal wealth taxes with risky human capital

  • Borys Grochulski
  • Tomasz Piskorski

We study the structure of optimal wealth and labor income taxes in a Mirrlees economy in which the productivity of labor (i.e., skill) is private, stochastic, and endogenous. Individual agents' skills are determined by their level of human capital. Human capital is not publicly observable and the returns to human capital investment are subject to idiosyncratic shocks. Preferences are not assumed to be additively separable in consumption and human capital investment and, thus, the intertemporal marginal rates of substitution of consumption are private information. We characterize the optimal allocation and a tax system that implements this allocation in equilibrium. The optimal allocation does not satisfy the "reciprocal Euler equation" of Rogerson [Econometrica, 1985], which holds in Mirrlees economies with exogenous skills. The tax system we use in our decentralization of the optimum consists of a wealth tax that is linear in wealth and a labor income tax that depends solely on labor income. The result of Kocherlakota [Econometrica, 2005], establishing the optimality of zero expected marginal wealth tax rate, holds in our model. We show that endogenous skill determination affects the volatility of marginal wealth taxes rather than their expectation. Relative to economies with exogenous skills, the optimal marginal wealth tax rate is more volatile in our endogenous skill economy. Also, we demonstrate the optimality of a wedge in the returns on the two assets present in our economy: At the optimum, the marginal return on human capital investment is strictly larger than the marginal return on physical capital investment.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond in its series Working Paper with number 05-13.

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Date of creation: 2005
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedrwp:05-13
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  1. Stefania Albanesi & Christopher Sleet, 2004. "Dynamic optimal taxation with private information," Discussion Paper / Institute for Empirical Macroeconomics 140, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  2. Emmanuel Farhi & Iván Werning, 2010. "Progressive Estate Taxation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 125(2), pages 635-673, May.
  3. Boldrin, Michele & Montes, Ana, 2002. "The Intergenerational State: Education and Pensions," CEPR Discussion Papers 3275, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. Mikhail Golosov & Narayana Kocherlakota & Aleh Tsyvinski, 2002. "Optimal Indirect and Capital Taxation," Levine's Working Paper Archive 391749000000000449, David K. Levine.
  5. Larry E. Jones & Rodolfo E. Manuelli & Peter E. Rossi, 1993. "On the Optimal Taxation of Capital Income," NBER Working Papers 4525, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Narayana R. Kocherlakota, 2005. "Zero Expected Wealth Taxes: A Mirrlees Approach to Dynamic Optimal Taxation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 73(5), pages 1587-1621, 09.
  7. Rogerson, William P, 1985. "Repeated Moral Hazard," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 53(1), pages 69-76, January.
  8. Narayana R Kocherlakota, 2005. "Advances in Dynamic Optimal Taxation," Levine's Bibliography 784828000000000518, UCLA Department of Economics.
  9. Davies, James B. & Zeng, Jinli & Zhang, Jie, 2000. "Consumption vs. income taxes when private human capital investments are imperfectly observable," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 77(1), pages 1-28, July.
  10. Stefania Albanesi, 2006. "Optimal Taxation of Entrepreneurial Capital with Private Information," NBER Working Papers 12419, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Narayana R. Kocherlakota, 2004. "Wedges and Taxes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 109-113, May.
  12. Ignacio Palacios-Huerta, 2001. "An Empirical Analysis of the Risk Properties of Human Capital Returns," Working Papers 2001-10, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  13. Heckman, James J, 1976. "A Life-Cycle Model of Earnings, Learning, and Consumption," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 84(4), pages S11-44, August.
  14. Mirrlees, James A, 1971. "An Exploration in the Theory of Optimum Income Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 38(114), pages 175-208, April.
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