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Capital Income Taxes with Heterogeneous Discount Rates

  • Peter A. Diamond
  • Johannes Spinnewijn

With heterogeneity in both skills and discount factors, the Atkinson-Stiglitz theorem that savings should not be taxed does not hold. We consider a model with heterogeneity of preferences at each earnings level. With some assumptions on the equilibrium, a small savings tax on high earners and a small savings subsidy on low earners both increase welfare, regardless of the correlation between ability and discount factor. Key is that types who value future consumption less are more tempted to switch to a lower paid job. Extending Saez (2002), a uniform savings tax increases welfare if the correlation of skill with discount factor is su¢ ciently high. Some optimal tax results and empirical evidence to support the assumptions are presented.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 15115.

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Date of creation: Jun 2009
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Publication status: published as Peter Diamond & Johannes Spinnewijn, 2011. "Capital Income Taxes with Heterogeneous Discount Rates," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 3(4), pages 52-76, November.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15115
Note: PE
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  1. Blomquist, Sören & Christiansen, Vidar, 2004. "Taxation and Heterogeneous Preferences," Working Paper Series 2004:9, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.
  2. Peter A. Diamond, 2003. "Taxation, Incomplete Markets, and Social Security," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262042134, June.
  3. Gordon, Roger H. & Kopczuk, Wojciech, 2014. "The choice of the personal income tax base," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 118(C), pages 97-110.
  4. 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.
  5. Christopher F. Chabris & David Laibson & Carrie L. Morris & Jonathon P. Schuldt & Dmitry Taubinsky, 2008. "Individual Laboratory-Measured Discount Rates Predict Field Behavior," NBER Working Papers 14270, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Narayana R. Kocherlakota, 2003. "Zero Expected Wealth Taxes: A Mirrlees Approach to Dynamic Optimal Taxation," Levine's Bibliography 666156000000000426, UCLA Department of Economics.
  7. Katherine Cuff, 1998. "Optimality of Workfare with Heterogeneous Preferences," Working Papers 968, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  8. Diamond, Peter, 2006. "Optimal tax treatment of private contributions for public goods with and without warm glow preferences," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(4-5), pages 897-919, May.
  9. Karen E. Dynan & Jonathan Skinner & Stephen P. Zeldes, 2000. "Do the Rich Save More?," NBER Working Papers 7906, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. 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.
  11. Roger Gordon, 2004. "Taxation of Interest Income," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer, vol. 11(1), pages 5-15, January.
  12. BOADWAY, R. & MARCHAND, M. & PESTIEAU, P. & del MAR RACIONERO, M., 2001. "Optimal redistribution with heterogeneous preferences for leisure," CORE Discussion Papers 2001025, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  13. Emmanuel Saez, 2000. "The Desirability of Commodity Taxation under Non-Linear Income Taxation and Heterogeneous Tastes," NBER Working Papers 8029, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Atkinson, A. B. & Stiglitz, J. E., 1976. "The design of tax structure: Direct versus indirect taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(1-2), pages 55-75.
  15. Kaplow Louis, 2008. "Optimal Policy with Heterogeneous Preferences," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 8(1), pages 1-30, September.
  16. Louis Kaplow, 2008. "Optimal Policy with Heterogeneous Preferences," NBER Working Papers 14170, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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