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Capital Income Taxes and the Benefit of Price Stability

  • Martin Feldstein

Going from low inflation to price stability involves a short term loss (associated with the" higher unemployment rate required to reduce the inflation) and results in a series of welfare gains" in all future years. The primary source of these gains is the reduction in the distortions that result" from the interaction of tax rules and inflation. The paper quantifies the gains associated with" reducing the distortion in favor of current consumption rather than future consumption and in" favor of the consumption of owner occupied housing. These tax effects are much larger than the" effect on the demand for money that is generally emphasized in studies of the distorting effect of" inflation. The seignorage gains are also small in comparison to other effects of the tax-inflation" interaction. The estimates imply that the annual value of the net benefits of going from two" percent inflation to price stability are about one percent of GDP. Discounting this growing" stream of benefits at a real discount rate of five percent implies a net present value of about more" than 30 percent of GDP. All estimates of the short-run cost of going from low inflation to price" stability are less than this.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 6200.

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Date of creation: Sep 1997
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as The Costs and Benefits of Price Stability. Felstein, Martin, ed., Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1999, pp. 9-40.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6200
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  1. Poterba, James M, 1984. "Tax Subsidies to Owner-occupied Housing: An Asset-Market Approach," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 99(4), pages 729-52, November.
  2. Robert J. Barro, 2013. "Inflation and Economic Growth," Annals of Economics and Finance, Society for AEF, vol. 14(1), pages 121-144, May.
  3. Stanley Fischer & Franco Modigliani, 1978. "Towards An Understanding of the Real Effects and Costs of Inflation," NBER Working Papers 0303, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Poterba, James M, 1992. "Taxation and Housing: Old Questions, New Answers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(2), pages 237-42, May.
  5. Laurence Ball, 1994. "What Determines the Sacrifice Ratio?," NBER Chapters, in: Monetary Policy, pages 155-193 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Harvey S. Rosen, 1983. "Housing Subsidies: Effects on Housing Decisions, Efficiency, and Equity," NBER Working Papers 1161, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Feldstein, Martin S, 1978. "The Welfare Cost of Capital Income Taxation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(2), pages S29-51, April.
  8. Martin S. Feldstein, 1997. "The Costs and Benefits of Going from Low Inflation to Price Stability," NBER Chapters, in: Reducing Inflation: Motivation and Strategy, pages 123-166 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Ballard, Charles L & Shoven, John B & Whalley, John, 1985. "General Equilibrium Computations of the Marginal Welfare Costs of Taxes in the United States," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(1), pages 128-38, March.
  10. Feldstein, Martin S & Green, Jerry R & Sheshinski, Eytan, 1978. "Inflation and Taxes in a Growing Economy with Debt and Equity Finance," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(2), pages S53-70, April.
  11. N. Gregory Mankiw, 1987. "Consumer Spending and the After-Tax Real Interest Rate," NBER Chapters, in: The Effects of Taxation on Capital Accumulation, pages 53-68 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Blinder, Alan S, 1975. "Distribution Effects and the Aggregate Consumption Function," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 83(3), pages 447-75, June.
  13. Feldstein, Martin S, 1979. "The Welfare Cost of Permanent Inflation and Optimal Short-Run Economic Policy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(4), pages 749-68, August.
  14. Martin Feldstein, 1995. "Tax Avoidance and the Deadweight Loss of the Income Tax," NBER Working Papers 5055, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Benabou, Roland, 1992. "Inflation and Efficiency in Search Markets," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 59(2), pages 299-329, April.
  16. Makin, John H & Couch, Kenneth A, 1989. "Saving, Pension Contributions, and the Real Interest Rate," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 71(3), pages 401-07, August.
  17. Martin Feldstein, 1994. "Fiscal Policies, Capital Formation, and Capitalism," NBER Working Papers 4885, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Martin Feldstein & James M. Poterba & Louis Dicks-Mireaux, 1981. "The Effective Tax Rate and the Pretax Rate of Return," NBER Working Papers 0740, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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