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Measuring the Efficiency Cost of Taxing Risky Capital Income

  • Roger H. Gordon
  • John D. Wilson

In this paper, we derive a measure of the efficiency cost of taxing risky capital income in an infinite horizon stochastic model. The resulting measure differs from all those that have been proposed in the existing literature. It can be represented by the expression -sigma(s) T(s)c(deltaX(s)), where T(s) measures the present value of the taxes that would be paid on a unit of investment in a riskless project with the same expected depreciation rate and tax treatment as capital invested in period s, X(s), while c(X(s)) represents the certainty equivalent to the representative individual of the lottery where measures the ex post change in investment in period s due to the tax change. The paper then compares this measure with others that have appeared in the literature. We were unable to find support for the argument in Bulow-Suinmers(1984) that the efficiency cost of taxing risky capital income is much larger than that implied by the measure -sigma(s)T(s)E(deltaX(s)). In fact, we show in special cases that our measure implies a smaller efficiency cost than does the measure -sigma(s)T(s)E(deltaX(s)).

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 1992.

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Date of creation: Aug 1986
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as The American Economic Review, Vol. 79, No. 3, pp. 429-439, (June 1989).
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:1992
Note: PE
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  1. Bulow, Jeremy I & Summers, Lawrence H, 1984. "The Taxation of Risky Assets," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 92(1), pages 20-39, February.
  2. Joel B. Slemrod, 1983. "A General Equilibrium Model of Taxation with Endogenous Financial Behavior," NBER Chapters, in: Behavioral Simulation Methods in Tax Policy Analysis, pages 427-458 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Hayashi, Fumio, 1982. "Tobin's Marginal q and Average q: A Neoclassical Interpretation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(1), pages 213-24, January.
  4. Lawrence H. Summers, 1981. "Taxation and Corporate Investment: A q-Theory Approach," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 12(1), pages 67-140.
  5. Gordon, Roger H, 1985. "Taxation of Corporate Capital Income: Tax Revenues versus Tax Distortions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 100(1), pages 1-27, February.
  6. Charles L. Ballard & Don Fullerton & John B. Shoven & John Whalley, 1985. "General Equilibrium Analysis of Tax Policies," NBER Chapters, in: A General Equilibrium Model for Tax Policy Evaluation, pages 6-24 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Martin Feldstein, 1978. "The Welfare Cost of Capital Income Taxation," NBER Chapters, in: Research in Taxation, pages 29-51 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Abel, Andrew B., 1980. "Empirical investment equations : An integrative framework," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 12(1), pages 39-91, January.
  9. Don Fullerton & Roger H. Gordon, 1981. "A Reexamination of Tax Distortions in General Equilibrium Models," NBER Working Papers 0673, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Harberger, Arnold C, 1971. "Three Basic Postulates for Applied Welfare Economics: An Interpretive Essay," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 9(3), pages 785-97, September.
  11. Alan J. Auerbach, 1983. "Corporate Taxation in the United States," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 14(2), pages 451-514.
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