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Why Is the Corporate Tax Rate Lower than the Personal Tax Rate?

  • Clemens Fuest
  • Bernd Huber
  • Søren Bo Nielsen

In many OECD countries, statutory corporate tax rates are lower than personal income tax rates. The present paper argues that this tax rate differentiation is an optimal tax policy if there are problems of asymmetric information between investors and firms in the capital market. The reduction of the corporate tax rate below the personale tax rate encourages equity financing and thus mitigates the excessive use of debt financing induced by asymmetric information. Our main theoretical result stands in marked contrast to the traditional view of corporate taxation and corporate finance theory, according to which there is a tax disadvantage to equity financing. More recent empirical evidence on this issue, however, is in line with our result.

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Paper provided by Economic Policy Research Unit (EPRU), University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics in its series EPRU Working Paper Series with number 00-17.

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Handle: RePEc:kud:epruwp:00-17
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  1. Bovenberg, A.L. & Gordon, R.H., 1996. "Why is capital so immobile internationally? Possible explanation and implications for capital income taxation," Other publications TiSEM 6a131c21-fd9a-4d83-8d9a-7, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.
  2. Assaf Razin & Efraim Sadka & Chi-Wa Yuen, 1999. "An Information-Based Model of Foreign Direct Investment: The Gains from Trade Revisited," NBER Working Papers 6884, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Roger H. Gordon & A. Lans Bovenberg, 1994. "Why is Capital so Immobile Internationally?: Possible Explanations and Implications for Capital Income Taxation," NBER Working Papers 4796, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Roger H. Gordon & Jeffrey K. MacKie--Mason, 1994. "Tax Distortions to the Choice of Organizational Form," Public Economics 9401004, EconWPA, revised 18 Jan 1994.
  5. Gordon, Roger H. & Lee, Young, 2001. "Do taxes affect corporate debt policy? Evidence from U.S. corporate tax return data," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(2), pages 195-224, November.
  6. Gordon, Roger H, 1986. "Taxation of Investment and Savings in a World Economy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(5), pages 1086-1102, December.
  7. Graham, John R., 1999. "Do personal taxes affect corporate financing decisions?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 73(2), pages 147-185, August.
  8. Myers, Stewart C. & Majluf, Nicolás S., 1945-, 1984. "Corporate financing and investment decisions when firms have information that investors do not have," Working papers 1523-84., Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sloan School of Management.
  9. Jeffrey MacKie-Mason, 1988. "Do Taxes Affect Corporate Financing Decisions?," NBER Working Papers 2632, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Feldstein, Martin S & Slemrod, Joel, 1980. "Personal Taxation, Portfolio Choice, and the Effect of the Corporation Income Tax," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 88(5), pages 854-66, October.
  11. Klein, Peter, 1999. "The capital gain lock-in effect and equilibrium returns," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 71(3), pages 355-378, March.
  12. Roger H. Gordon & Jeffrey K. MacKie-Mason, 1990. "Effects of the Tax Reform Act of 1986 on Corporate Financial Policy and Organizational Form," NBER Working Papers 3222, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Roger H. Gordon, 1998. "Can High Personal Tax Rates Encourage Entrepreneurial Activity?," IMF Staff Papers, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 45(1), pages 49-80, March.
  14. Roger H. Gordon & Joel Slemrod, 1998. "Are "Real" Responses to Taxes Simply Income Shifting Between Corporate and Personal Tax Bases?," NBER Working Papers 6576, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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