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Optimal Taxation and Human Capital Policies over the Life Cycle

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  • Stefanie Stantcheva

Abstract

This paper derives optimal income tax and human capital policies in a dynamic life cycle model of labor supply and risky human capital formation. The wage is a function of both stochastic, persistent, and exogenous "ability'' and endogenous human capital. Human capital is acquired throughout life through monetary expenses. The government faces asymmetric information regarding the initial ability of agents and the lifetime evolution of ability, as well as the labor supply. The optimal subsidy on human capital expenses is determined by three considerations: counterbalancing distortions to human capital investment from the taxation of wage and capital income, encouraging labor supply, and providing insurance against adverse draws from the productivity distribution. When the wage elasticity with respect to ability is increasing in human capital, the optimal subsidy involves less than full deductibility of human capital expenses on the tax base, and falls with age. I consider two ways to implement the optimum: income contingent loans, and a tax scheme that allows for a deferred deductibility of human capital expenses. Numerical results are presented that suggest that full dynamic risk-adjusted deductibility of expenses might be close to optimal, and that simple linear age-dependent policies can achieve most of the welfare gain from the second best.

Suggested Citation

  • Stefanie Stantcheva, 2015. "Optimal Taxation and Human Capital Policies over the Life Cycle," NBER Working Papers 21207, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:21207
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Richard Blundell & Monica Costa Dias & Costas Meghir & Jonathan Shaw, 2016. "Female Labor Supply, Human Capital, and Welfare Reform," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 84, pages 1705-1753, September.
    2. Juergen Jung & Chung Tran, 2018. "Optimal Progressive Income Taxation in a Bewley-Grossman Framework," ANU Working Papers in Economics and Econometrics 2018-662, Australian National University, College of Business and Economics, School of Economics.
    3. William Peterman, 2016. "The effect of endogenous human capital accumulation on optimal taxation," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 21, pages 46-71, July.
    4. Marek Kapička, 2015. "Optimal Mirrleesean Taxation in a Ben-Porath Economy," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 7(2), pages 219-248, April.
    5. Findeisen, Sebastian & Sachs, Dominik, 2016. "Education and optimal dynamic taxation: The role of income-contingent student loans," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 138(C), pages 1-21.
    6. Juergen Jung & Chung Tran, 2017. "Optimal Progressive Income Taxation in a Bewley-Grossman Framework," Working Papers 2017-01, Towson University, Department of Economics, revised Apr 2018.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation
    • H23 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Externalities; Redistributive Effects; Environmental Taxes and Subsidies
    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • I22 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Educational Finance; Financial Aid
    • I24 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Inequality

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