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Use It or Lose It: Efficiency Gains from Wealth Taxation

Author

Listed:
  • Sergio Ocampo

    (University of Minnesota)

  • Gueorgui Kambourov

    (University of Toronto)

  • Daphne Chen

    (Florida State University)

  • Burhanettin Kuruscu

    (University of Toronto)

  • Fatih Guvenen

    (University of Minnesota)

Abstract

This paper studies the quantitative implications of wealth taxation (as opposed to capital income taxation) in an incomplete markets model with return rate heterogeneity across individuals. The rate of return heterogeneity arises from the fact that some individuals have better entrepreneurial skills than others, allowing them to obtain a higher return on their wealth. With such heterogeneity, capital income and wealth taxes have different efficiency and distributional implications. Under capital income taxation, entrepreneurs who are more productive and, as a result, generate more income pay higher taxes. Under wealth taxation, on the other hand, entrepreneurs who have similar wealth levels pay similar taxes regardless of their productivity. Thus, in this environment, the tax burden shifts from productive entrepreneurs to unproductive ones if the capital income tax were replaced with a wealth tax. This reallocation increases aggregate productivity. Second, and at the same time, it increases wealth inequality in the population. To provide a quantitative assessment of these different effects, we build and simulate an overlapping generations model with individual-specific returns on capital income and with idiosyncratic shocks to labor income. Our results indicate that switching from a capital income tax to a wealth tax increases welfare by almost 8% through better allocation of capital. We also study optimal taxation in this environment and find that, relative to the benchmark, the optimal wealth tax increases welfare by 9.6% while the optimal capital income tax increases it by 6.3%.

Suggested Citation

  • Sergio Ocampo & Gueorgui Kambourov & Daphne Chen & Burhanettin Kuruscu & Fatih Guvenen, 2017. "Use It or Lose It: Efficiency Gains from Wealth Taxation," 2017 Meeting Papers 913, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  • Handle: RePEc:red:sed017:913
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    File URL: https://economicdynamics.org/meetpapers/2017/paper_913.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Jess Benhabib & Alberto Bisin & Shenghao Zhu, 2011. "The Distribution of Wealth and Fiscal Policy in Economies With Finitely Lived Agents," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 79(1), pages 123-157, January.
    2. Fatih Guvenen, 2007. "Learning Your Earning: Are Labor Income Shocks Really Very Persistent?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(3), pages 687-712, June.
    3. Ali Shourideh, 2013. "Optimal Taxation of Wealthy Individuals," 2013 Meeting Papers 261, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    4. Chamley, Christophe, 1986. "Optimal Taxation of Capital Income in General Equilibrium with Infinite Lives," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 54(3), pages 607-622, May.
    5. Javier Díaz-Giménez & Andrew Glover & José-Víctor Ríos-Rull, 2011. "Facts on the distributions of earnings, income, and wealth in the United States: 2007 update," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
    6. Storesletten, Kjetil & Telmer, Chris I. & Yaron, Amir, 2001. "The welfare cost of business cycles revisited: Finite lives and cyclical variation in idiosyncratic risk," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 45(7), pages 1311-1339.
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    Cited by:

    1. Elin Halvorsen & Thor Olav Thoresen, 2017. "Distributional Effects of the Wealth Tax under a Lifetime-Dynastic Income Concept," CESifo Working Paper Series 6614, CESifo Group Munich.
    2. Matthias Krapf, 2018. "The Joint Distribution of Wealth and Income Risk: Evidence from Bern," CESifo Working Paper Series 7130, CESifo Group Munich.
    3. Bastani, Spencer & Waldenström, Daniel, 2018. "How Should Capital Be Taxed? Theory and Evidence from Sweden," IZA Discussion Papers 11475, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

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