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On the Optimal Taxation of Capital Income in the Open Economy


  • David G. Hartman


The optimal taxation of foreign and domestic investors' incomes is examined with a simple overlapping-generations model. Even when tax rates are allowed to discriminate between these groups,the optimal tax rates on both domestic and foreign investors' incomes in the small open economy are identical and equal to the optimal rate of tax in the closed economy. In light of the emphasis in the literature on the extent to which the elasticity of international flows might lower optimal capital income taxes, this conclusion is quite a surprise. In the large open economy, the optimal tax rate on foreign investors'income alone is a weighted average of one and the small economy tax rate. The optimal tax rate on domestic income is, again, unaffected by the openness ofthe economy. When a uniform tax rate must be set in the large open economy, it is generally higher than the optimal tax rate for a closed economy, a conclusion contrary to the conventional wisdom. However, a higher elasticity of international capital flows is associated with a lower tax rate, as expected, butthe rate remains above the closed-economy rate. In summary, openness matters for optimal tax policy, primarily in the case of the large economy. The reason is mainly the ability to burden foreign investors with a tax liability.

Suggested Citation

  • David G. Hartman, 1985. "On the Optimal Taxation of Capital Income in the Open Economy," NBER Working Papers 1550, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:1550
    Note: PE

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Kotlikoff, Laurence J, 1984. "Taxation and Savings: A Neoclassical Perspective," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 22(4), pages 1576-1629, December.
    2. Martin Feldstein, 1984. "On the Theory of Optimal Taxation in a Growing Economy," NBER Working Papers 1435, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. John Dutton, 1982. "The Optimal Taxation of International Investment Income: A Comment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 97(2), pages 373-380.
    4. Alan J. Auerbach & Laurence J. Kotlikoff, 1983. "National Savings, Economic Welfare, and the Structure of Taxation," NBER Chapters,in: Behavioral Simulation Methods in Tax Policy Analysis, pages 459-498 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Feldstein, Martin & Horioka, Charles, 1980. "Domestic Saving and International Capital Flows," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 90(358), pages 314-329, June.
    6. Summers, Lawrence H, 1981. "Capital Taxation and Accumulation in a Life Cycle Growth Model," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(4), pages 533-544, September.
    7. David G. Hartman, 1985. "The Welfare Effects of a Capital Income Tax in an Open Economy," NBER Working Papers 1551, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Martin Feldstein, 1991. "Domestic Saving and International Capital Movements in the Long Run and the Short Run," NBER Chapters,in: International Volatility and Economic Growth: The First Ten Years of The International Seminar on Macroeconomics, pages 331-353 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Lawrence H. Goulder & John B. Shoven & John Whalley, 1983. "Domestic Tax Policy and the Foreign Sector: The Importance of Alternative Foreign Sector Formulations to Results from a General Equilibrium Tax Analysis Model," NBER Chapters,in: Behavioral Simulation Methods in Tax Policy Analysis, pages 333-368 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Roger H. Gordon, 1985. "Taxation of Investment and Savings in a World Economy: The Certainty Case," NBER Working Papers 1723, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Slemrod, Joel & Hansen, Carl & Procter, Roger, 1997. "The seesaw principle in international tax policy," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(2), pages 163-176, August.

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