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Trading with the Unborn: A New Perspective on Capital Income Taxation

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  • Kent A. Smetters

Abstract

Security markets between generations are incomplete due to a biological trading constraint' that prevents living generations from negotiating contingent contracts with the unborn. This paper shows, however, that government policy can be used to replicate the trades that would have occurred if these generations could trade. Specifically, for the class of linear securities, these trades can be replicated using a Domar-Musgrave capital income tax that is similar to the U.S. capital income tax. It is then proven that the Replicating Tax Rate (RTR) in the replicating capital income tax system is positive in a production economy if wage and capital returns are uncorrelated (i.e., only depreciation is stochastic). The sign of the RTR is ambiguous, however, if wage and capital returns are perfectly correlated (i.e., only productivity is stochastic). But, in this case, if we also assume that (i) production takes the Cobb-Douglas form, (ii) depreciation per period is less than 100 percent, and (iii) the inter-temporal substitution elasticity (IES) is unity, then the RTR is actually negative. Since completing a missing market is not necessarily pareto improving in the presence of general-equilibrium effects, this paper also investigates whether the Replicating Tax increases efficiency. In the case in which the RTR can be signed as negative, efficiency is proven to increase. While this result is one of the first derivations of efficiency gains associated with completing a missing market in a production economy with an endogenous equity return distribution, this result is still restrictive. Simulation evidence, therefore, is reported for more realistic cases in which both productivity and depreciation are stochastic; a calibrated value for the IES parameter is also used and other realistic features of the U.S. economy are incorporated. Welfare results, corresponding to a change in the RTR, are reported for both transition and steady-state generations using a recursive technique that accommodates a state space that expands rapidly over time.

Suggested Citation

  • Kent A. Smetters, 2003. "Trading with the Unborn: A New Perspective on Capital Income Taxation," NBER Working Papers 9412, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9412
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. David Bradford, "undated". "Consumption Taxes: Some Fundamental Transition Issues," EPRU Working Paper Series 95-15, Economic Policy Research Unit (EPRU), University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
    2. repec:fth:calaec:4-98 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Laurence Ball & N. Gregory Mankiw, 2007. "Intergenerational Risk Sharing in the Spirit of Arrow, Debreu, and Rawls, with Applications to Social Security Design," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 115(4), pages 523-547, August.
    4. Wang Yong, 1993. "Stationary Equilibria in an Overlapping Generations Economy with Stochastic Production," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 61(2), pages 423-435, December.
    5. Agnar Sandmo, 1977. "Portfolio Theory, Asset Demand and Taxation: Comparative Statics with Many Assets," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 44(2), pages 369-379.
    6. J. E. Stiglitz, 1969. "The Effects of Income, Wealth, and Capital Gains Taxation on Risk-Taking," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 83(2), pages 263-283.
    7. Evsey D. Domar & Richard A. Musgrave, 1944. "Proportional Income Taxation and Risk-Taking," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 58(3), pages 388-422.
    8. Henning Bohn, 1999. "Should the Social Security Trust Fund Hold Equities," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 2(3), pages 666-697, July.
    9. Roger H. Gordon, 1985. "Taxation of Corporate Capital Income: Tax Revenues Versus Tax Distortions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 100(1), pages 1-27.
    10. Poterba, James M., 1998. "The rate of return to corporate capital and factor shares: new estimates using revised national income accounts and capital stock data," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 211-246, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Gottardi, Piero & Kubler, Felix, 2011. "Social security and risk sharing," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 146(3), pages 1078-1106, May.
    2. Olovsson, Conny, 2010. "Quantifying the risk-sharing welfare gains of social security," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(3), pages 364-375, April.
    3. Jeffrey R. Brown & Peter R. Orszag, 2006. "The Political Economy of Government-Issued Longevity Bonds," Journal of Risk & Insurance, The American Risk and Insurance Association, vol. 73(4), pages 611-631.
    4. Olovsson, Conny, 2004. "The Welfare Gains of Improving Risk Sharing in Social Security," Seminar Papers 728, Stockholm University, Institute for International Economic Studies.
    5. Espen Henriksen & Steve Spear, 2006. "Dynamic Suboptimality of Competitive Equilibrium in Multiperiod Overlapping Generations Economies," Computing in Economics and Finance 2006 223, Society for Computational Economics.
    6. Olovsson, Conny, 2004. "Social Security and the Equity Premium Puzzle," Seminar Papers 729, Stockholm University, Institute for International Economic Studies.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D9 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics
    • E6 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook

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