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Preference Heterogeneity and Optimal Capital Income Taxation

  • Mikhail Golosov
  • Maxim Troshkin
  • Aleh Tsyvinski
  • Matthew Weinzierl

We examine a prominent justification for capital income taxation: goods preferred by those with high ability ought to be taxed. In an environment where commodity taxes are allowed to be nonlinear functions of income and consumption, we derive an analytical expression that reveals the forces determining optimal commodity taxation. We then calibrate the model to evidence on the relationship between skills and preferences and extensively examine the quantitative case for taxes on future consumption (saving). In our baseline case of a unit intertemporal elasticity, optimal capital income tax rates are 2% on average and 4.5% on high earners. We find that the intertemporal elasticity of substitution has a substantial effect on optimal capital taxation. If the intertemporal elasticity is one-third, optimal capital income tax rates rise to 15% on average and 23% on high earners; if the intertemporal elasticity is two, optimal rates fall to 0.6% on average and 1.6% on high earners. Nevertheless, in all cases that we consider the welfare gains of using optimal capital taxes are small.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 16619.

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Date of creation: Dec 2010
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Publication status: published as Golosov, Mikhail & Troshkin, Maxim & Tsyvinski, Aleh & Weinzierl, Matthew, 2013. "Preference heterogeneity and optimal capital income taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 97(C), pages 160-175.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16619
Note: EFG PE
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  1. Mikhail Golosov & Maxim Troshkin & Aleh Tsyvinski, 2011. "Optimal Taxation: Merging Micro and Macro Approaches," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 43, pages 147-174, 08.
  2. Roger H. Gordon & Wojciech Kopczuk, 2014. "The Choice of the Personal Income Tax Base," NBER Working Papers 20227, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Tsyvinski, A. & Golosov, M., 2004. "Optimal Taxation with Endogenous Insurance Markets," 2004 Meeting Papers 124, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  4. Narayana R. Kocherlakota & Luigi Pistaferri, 2006. "Household heterogeneity and real exchange rates," Staff Report 372, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  5. Samwick, Andrew A., 1998. "Discount rate heterogeneity and social security reform," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(1), pages 117-146, October.
  6. Narayana R. Kocherlakota & Luigi Pistaferri, 2004. "Asset Pricing Implications of Pareto Optimality with Private Information," Levine's Bibliography 122247000000000508, UCLA Department of Economics.
  7. Mikhail Golosov & Aleh Tsyvinski, 2004. "Designing Optimal Disability Insurance: A Case for Asset Testing," NBER Working Papers 10792, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Albanesi, Stefania & Sleet, Christopher, 2003. "Dynamic Optimal Taxation with Private Information," CEPR Discussion Papers 4006, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  9. Raj Chetty, 2012. "Bounds on Elasticities With Optimization Frictions: A Synthesis of Micro and Macro Evidence on Labor Supply," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 80(3), pages 969-1018, 05.
  10. Mikhail Golosov & Narayana R. Kocherlakota & Aleh Tsyvinski, 2001. "Optimal indirect and capital taxation," Staff Report 293, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  11. Maxim Troshkin & Aleh Tsyvinski & Mikhail Golosov, 2010. "Optimal Dynamic Taxes," 2010 Meeting Papers 320, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  12. Karen E. Dynan & Jonathan Skinner & Stephen P. Zeldes, 2004. "Do the Rich Save More?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(2), pages 397-444, April.
  13. Kleven, Henrik & Kreiner, Claus Thustrup & Saez, Emmanuel, 2006. "The Optimal Income Taxation of Couples," CEPR Discussion Papers 5978, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  14. Saez, Emmanuel, 2002. "The desirability of commodity taxation under non-linear income taxation and heterogeneous tastes," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 83(2), pages 217-230, February.
  15. Daniel J. Benjamin & Sebastian A. Brown & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2013. "Who Is ‘Behavioral’? Cognitive Ability And Anomalous Preferences," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 11(6), pages 1231-1255, December.
  16. Richard Blundell & Luigi Pistaferri & Ian Preston, 2008. "Consumption Inequality and Partial Insurance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(5), pages 1887-1921, December.
  17. Mirrlees, J. A., 1976. "Optimal tax theory : A synthesis," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(4), pages 327-358, November.
  18. Laurence Ales & Maziero Pricila, . "Accounting for Private Information," GSIA Working Papers 2010-E58, Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business.
  19. Mikhail Golosov & Aleh Tsyvinski & Ivan Werning, 2007. "New Dynamic Public Finance: A User's Guide," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2006, Volume 21, pages 317-388 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  20. Ritva Tarkiainen & Matti Tuomala, 2004. "On Optimal Income Taxation with Heterogenous Work Preferences," Working Papers 0432, University of Tampere, School of Management, Economics.
  21. Karen E. Dynan, 1993. "The rate of time preference and shocks to wealth: evidence from panel data," Working Paper Series / Economic Activity Section 134, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  22. Peter J. Hammond, 1987. "Markets as Constraints: Multilateral Incentive Compatibility in Continuum Economies," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 54(3), pages 399-412.
  23. Emmanuel Saez, 2001. "Using Elasticities to Derive Optimal Income Tax Rates," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 68(1), pages 205-229.
  24. Mikhail Golosov & Aleh Tsyvinski, 2007. "Optimal Taxation with Endogenous Insurance Markets," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(2), pages 487-534.
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