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A New Summary Measure of the Effective Tax Rate on Investment

  • Roger Gordon
  • Laura Kalambokidis
  • Joel Slemrod

The empirical literature that seeks to measure the effective tax rate on new investment offers a striking paradox. On the one hand, summary measures of the effective tax rate on new investment are normally quite high. On the other hand, the amount of revenue actually collected from taxing capital income is apparently very low. In this paper we derive explicitly how revenue figures (under the existing system and under a hypothetical R-base tax) can be used to construct an estimate of the true effective tax rate on capital income, and how this measure and existing measures are affected by several factors, including resale of assets (churning), risk, pure profits, debt finance and arbitrage, and choice of organizational form.We conclude that our new methodology provides a very useful, but not fail-safe, approach for measuring the effective tax rate on new investment. It is much more robust than the standard measures, such as King-Fullerton marginal effective tax rates complications in the tax law. In trying to reconcile the high conventional measures of the effective tax rate with the low revenue collected, we conclude that the effective tax rate does seem to be much lower than existing measures suggest.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 9535.

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Date of creation: Mar 2003
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Sorensen, Peter Birch (ed.) Measuring the tax burden on capital and labor CESifo Seminar Series. Cambridge and London: MIT Press, 2004.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9535
Note: PE
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  1. David F. Bradford, 1979. "The Incidence and Allocation Effects of a Tax on Corporate Distributions," NBER Working Papers 0349, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Gordon, Roger & Kalambokidis, Laura & Slemrod, Joel, 2004. "Do we now collect any revenue from taxing capital income?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(5), pages 981-1009, April.
  3. Joel Slemrod, 2001. "A General Model of the Behavioral Response to Taxation," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 8(2), pages 119-128, March.
  4. Alan J. Auerbach, 1980. "Wealth Maximization and the Cost of Capital," NBER Working Papers 0254, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Jeremy I. Bulow & Lawrence H. Summers, 1982. "The Taxation of Risky Assets," NBER Working Papers 0897, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Roger H. Gordon & Young Lee, 1999. "Do Taxes Affect Corporate Debt Policy? Evidence from US Corporate Tax Return Data," NBER Working Papers 7433, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Roger H. Gordon & James R. Hines, Jr. & Lawrence H. Summers, 1987. "Notes on the Tax Treatment of Structures," NBER Chapters, in: The Effects of Taxation on Capital Accumulation, pages 223-258 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Constantinides, George M, 1983. "Capital Market Equilibrium with Personal Tax," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 51(3), pages 611-36, May.
  9. Roger H. Gordon & James R. Hines Jr., 2002. "International Taxation," NBER Working Papers 8854, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Martin Feldstein & Lawrence Summers, 1983. "Inflation and the Taxation of Capital Income in the Corporate Sector," NBER Chapters, in: Inflation, Tax Rules, and Capital Formation, pages 116-152 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Michael Devereux & Rachel Griffith, 1998. "The taxation of discrete investment choices," IFS Working Papers W98/16, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  12. B. Douglas Berhheim, 1991. "Tax Policy and the Dividend Puzzle," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 22(4), pages 455-476, Winter.
  13. Merton H. Miller & Franco Modigliani, 1961. "Dividend Policy, Growth, and the Valuation of Shares," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 34, pages 411.
  14. Don Fullerton, 1983. "Which Effective Tax Rate?," NBER Working Papers 1123, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Joseph E. Stiglitz, 1983. "Some Aspects of the Taxation of Capital Gains," NBER Working Papers 1094, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Gordon, Roger H & Wilson, John Douglas, 1989. "Measuring the Efficiency Cost of Taxing Risky Capital Income," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(3), pages 427-39, June.
  17. Harry Grubert & Joel Slemrod, 1998. "The Effect Of Taxes On Investment And Income Shifting To Puerto Rico," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 80(3), pages 365-373, August.
  18. Joseph E. Stiglitz, 1986. "The General Theory of Tax Avoidance," NBER Working Papers 1868, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Roger H. Gordon & Joel Slemrod, 1983. "A General Equilibrium Simulation Study of Subsidies to Municipal Expenditures," NBER Working Papers 1080, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  20. Roger H. Gordon & Joel Slemrod, 1988. "Do We Collect Any Revenue from Taxing Capital Income?," NBER Chapters, in: Tax Policy and the Economy: Volume 2, pages 89-130 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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