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Tax Distortions in a Neoclassical Monetary Economy

  • Cooley, T.F.
  • Hansen, G.D.

In this paper we use the common perspective provided by the neoclassical growth model to evaluate the size of the distortions associated with different monetary and fiscal policies designed to finance a given sequence of government expenditures. We construct an artificial monetary economy incorporating the cash-in-advance framework of Lucas and Stokey (1983), calibrate it to match important features of the U.S. economy, and simulate it to provide a quantitative assessment of the welfare costs associated with government policies involving different combinations of taxes on capital and labor income, consumption, and holdings of money. In particular, we evaluate the welfare gains from tax reforms that are designed to replace taxes on capital or labor income with other forms of taxation. Our results suggest that the welfare costs of financing a given sequence of government expenditures are slightly lower in economies that substitute inflation or consumption taxes for the tax on labor income, but dramatically lower for economies that substitute any of these taxes for the tax on capital income. Replacing the capital tax with a consumption tax, for example, eliminates 81 percent of the welfare cost arising from distorting taxation. In addition, we show that these welfare costs can be reduced further by eliminating the capital tax with a nonstationary policy that involves a transition to a temporary policy followed by a new steady state policy rather than an immediate change to a new steady state policy.

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Paper provided by University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER) in its series RCER Working Papers with number 265.

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Length: 34 pages
Date of creation: 1991
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:roc:rocher:265
Contact details of provider: Postal: University of Rochester, Center for Economic Research, Department of Economics, Harkness 231 Rochester, New York 14627 U.S.A.

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  1. Gary Hansen, 2010. "Indivisible Labor and the Business Cycle," Levine's Working Paper Archive 233, David K. Levine.
  2. Lawrence J. Christiano & Martin Eichenbaum, 1988. "Is Theory Really Ahead of Measurement? Current Real Business Cycle Theories and Aggregate Labor Market Fluctuations," NBER Working Papers 2700, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Chamley, Christophe, 1981. "The Welfare Cost of Capital Income Taxation in a Growing Economy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(3), pages 468-96, June.
  4. Brock, William A. & Mirman, Leonard J., 1972. "Optimal economic growth and uncertainty: The discounted case," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 4(3), pages 479-513, June.
  5. Kydland, Finn E & Prescott, Edward C, 1977. "Rules Rather Than Discretion: The Inconsistency of Optimal Plans," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 85(3), pages 473-91, June.
  6. Richard Rogerson, 2010. "Indivisible Labor, Lotteries and Equilibrium," Levine's Working Paper Archive 250, David K. Levine.
  7. Larry E. Jones & Rodolfo Manuelli, 1990. "A Convex Model of Equilibrium Growth," NBER Working Papers 3241, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Gary D. Hansen & Edward C. Prescott, 1992. "Recursive methods for computing equilibria of business cycle models," Discussion Paper / Institute for Empirical Macroeconomics 36, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  9. Kenneth L. Judd, 1984. "The Welfare Cost of Factor Taxation in a Perfect Foresight Model," Discussion Papers 643, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  10. Long, John B, Jr & Plosser, Charles I, 1983. "Real Business Cycles," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 91(1), pages 39-69, February.
  11. Edward C. Prescott, 1986. "Theory ahead of business cycle measurement," Staff Report 102, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  12. Thomas F. Cooley & Gary D. Hansen, 1987. "The Inflation Tax in a Real Business Cycle Model," UCLA Economics Working Papers 496, UCLA Department of Economics.
  13. Joines, Douglas H, 1981. "Estimates of Effective Marginal Tax Rates on Factor Incomes," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 54(2), pages 191-226, April.
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