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Who Bears the Burden of the Corporate Tax in The Open Economy?

  • Jane Gravelle
  • Kent Smetters

This paper investigates the long-run incidence of the corporate income tax in an open-economy model calibrated with two economies: the United States and a larger mirror economy representing the rest of the world. Imperfect substitutability of domestic and foreign products plays a key role in limiting - often eliminating - the incidence borne by domestic labor. We reach two novel conclusions. First, contrary to conventional wisdom, our analysis reveals that most of the long-run incidence of the corporate income tax is not borne by domestic labor. Nor is much of it borne by landowners. This finding is usually true even at an implausibly large portfolio substitution elasticity. The incidence is typically borne by domestic capital, as in the original Harberger (1962) closed-economy model. Second, for those parameter values in which the incidence is not borne mostly by domestic capital, interestingly, most of the incidence is exported. The exportation of the incidence of the corporate income tax, which has received little or no attention in the previous literature, might motivate tax coordination between countries. These results are robust to a range of parameter values and model assumptions. Our model is also compatible with several empirical rigidities.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 8280.

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Date of creation: May 2001
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Publication status: published as Gravelle, Jane G. and Kent A. Smetters. "Does The Open Economy Assumption Really Mean That Labor Bears The Burden Of A Capital Income Tax?," Advances in Economic Analysis and Policy, 2006, v6(1), Article 3.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8280
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  1. Clinton R. Shiells & Kenneth A. Reinert, 1993. "Armington Models and Terms-of-Trade Effects: Some Econometric Evidence for North America," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 26(2), pages 299-316, May.
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  5. Feldstein, Martin, 1988. "Imputing Corporate Tax Liabilities to Individual Taxpayers," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 41(1), pages 37-59, March.
  6. Gravelle, Jane G & Kotlikoff, Laurence J, 1989. "The Incidence and Efficiency Costs of Corporate Taxation When Corporate and Noncorporate Firms Produce the Same Good," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(4), pages 749-80, August.
  7. Hines, J.R. & Rice, E.M., 1990. "Fiscal Paradise: Foreign Tax Havens And American Business," Papers 56, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - Discussion Paper.
  8. Charles L. Ballard & Don Fullerton & John B. Shoven & John Whalley, 1985. "A General Equilibrium Model for Tax Policy Evaluation," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number ball85-1, 07.
  9. David Bradford, 1995. "The Distributional Analysis of Tax Policy," Books, American Enterprise Institute, number 52866, 12.
  10. Boskin, Michael J, 1978. "Taxation, Saving, and the Rate of Interest," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(2), pages S3-27, April.
  11. Jane G. Gravelle, 1994. "The Economic Effects of Taxing Capital Income," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262071584, March.
  12. Alan J. Auerbach & Joel Slemrod, 1997. "The Economic Effects of the Tax Reform Act of 1986," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 35(2), pages 589-632, June.
  13. Mutti, John & Grubert, Harry, 1985. "The taxation of capital income in an open economy: the importance of resident-nonresident tax treatment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(3), pages 291-309, August.
  14. Joel Slemrod, 1995. "Free trade taxation and protectionist taxation," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 2(3), pages 471-489, October.
  15. Slemrod, Joel, 1995. "Professional Opinions About Tax Policy: 1994 and 1934," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 48(1), pages 121-47, March.
  16. Jane G. Gravelle & Laurence J. Kotlikoff, 1989. "Corporate Taxation and the Efficiency Gains of the 1986 Tax Reform Act," NBER Working Papers 3142, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Michael J. Boskin, 1978. "Taxation, Saving, and the Rate of Interest," NBER Chapters, in: Research in Taxation, pages 3-27 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Sibert, Anne, 1990. "Taxing capital in a large, open economy," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(3), pages 297-317, April.
  19. Charles L. Ballard & Don Fullerton & John B. Shoven & John Whalley, 1985. "Introduction to "A General Equilibrium Model for Tax Policy Evaluation"," NBER Chapters, in: A General Equilibrium Model for Tax Policy Evaluation, pages 1-5 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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