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Optimal Capital Income Taxation

  • Andrew B. Abel

In an economy with identical infinitely-lived households that obtain utility from leisure as well as consumption, Chamley (1986) and Judd (1985) have shown that the optimal tax system to pay for an exogenous stream of government purchases involves a zero tax rate on capital in the long run, with tax revenue collected by a distortionary tax on labor income. Extending the results of Hall and Jorgenson (1971) to general equilibrium, I show that if purchasers of capital are permitted to deduct capital expenditures from taxable capital income, then a constant tax rate on capital income is non-distortionary. Importantly, even though this specification of the capital income tax imposes a zero effective tax rate on capital, the capital income tax can collect substantial revenue. Provided that government purchases do not exceed gross capital income less gross investment, the optimal tax system will consist of a positive tax rate on capital income and a zero tax rate on labor income--just the opposite of the results of Chamley and Judd.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 13354.

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Date of creation: Aug 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13354
Note: EFG PE
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  1. Andrew Abel & Gregory N. Mankiw & Lawrence H. Summers & Richard Zeckhauser, . "Assessing Dynamic Efficiency: Theory and Evidence," Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research Working Papers 14-88, Wharton School Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research.
  2. Paul A. Samuelson, 1964. "Tax Deductibility of Economic Depreciation to Insure Invariant Valuations," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 72, pages 604.
  3. Judd, Kenneth L., 1985. "Redistributive taxation in a simple perfect foresight model," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 59-83, October.
  4. Chamley, Christophe, 1986. "Optimal Taxation of Capital Income in General Equilibrium with Infinite Lives," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 54(3), pages 607-22, May.
  5. Lucas, Robert E, Jr, 1990. "Supply-Side Economics: An Analytical Review," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 42(2), pages 293-316, April.
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