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Taxing capital? Not a bad idea after all!

  • Conesa, Juan Carlos
  • Kitao, Sagiri
  • Krueger, Dirk

In this paper we quantitatively characterize the optimal capital and labor income tax in an overlapping generations model with idiosyncratic, uninsurable income shocks, where households also differ permanently with respect to their ability to generate income. The welfare criterion we employ is ex-ante (before ability is realized) expected (with respect to uninsurable productivity shocks) utility of a newborn in a stationary equilibrium. Embedded in this welfare criterion is a concern of the policy maker for insurance against idiosyncratic shocks and redistribution among agents of different abilities. Such insurance and redistribution can be achieved by progressive labor income taxes or taxation of capital income, or both. The policy maker has then to trade off these concerns against the standard distortions these taxes generate for the labor supply and capital accumulation decision. We find that the optimal capital income tax rate is not only positive, but is significantly positive. The optimal (marginal and average) tax rate on capital is 36%, in conjunction with a progressive labor income tax code that is, to a first approximation, a flat tax of 23% with a deduction that corresponds to about $6,000 (relative to an average income of households in the model of $35,000). We argue that the high optimal capital income tax is mainly driven by the life cycle structure of the model whereas the optimal progressivity of the labor income tax is due to the insurance and redistribution role of the income tax system.

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Paper provided by Center for Financial Studies (CFS) in its series CFS Working Paper Series with number 2006/21.

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Date of creation: 2006
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Handle: RePEc:zbw:cfswop:200621
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  1. Mikhail Golosov & Narayana Kocherlakota & Aleh Tsyvinski, 2003. "Optimal Indirect and Capital Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 70(3), pages 569-587, 07.
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  7. Kjetil Storesletten & Chris Telmer & Amir Yaron, 1997. "Consumption and risk sharing over the life cycle," GSIA Working Papers 228, Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business.
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  12. Gouveia, Miguel & Strauss, Robert P., 1994. "Effective Federal Individual Tax Functions: An Exploratory Empirical Analysis," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 47(2), pages 317-39, June.
  13. Andrés Erosa & Martin Gervais, 1998. "Optimal Taxation in Life-Cycle Economies," UWO Department of Economics Working Papers 9812, University of Western Ontario, Department of Economics.
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  23. David Domeij & Jonathan Heathcote, 2004. "On The Distributional Effects Of Reducing Capital Taxes," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 45(2), pages 523-554, 05.
  24. Andrew Atkeson & V.V. Chari & Patrick J. Kehoe, 1999. "Taxing capital income: a bad idea," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Sum, pages 3-17.
  25. Mirrlees, James A, 1971. "An Exploration in the Theory of Optimum Income Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 38(114), pages 175-208, April.
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  27. Kenneth L. Judd, 1982. "Redistributive Taxation in a Simple Perfect Foresight Model," Discussion Papers 572, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
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