A Simpler Theory of Optimal Capital Taxation
NBER Working Paper No. 22664
This paper develops a theory of optimal capital taxation that expresses optimal tax formulas in sufficient statistics. We first consider a simple model with utility functions linear in consumption and featuring heterogeneous utility for wealth. In this case, there are no transitional dynamics, the steady-state is reached immediately and has finite elasticities of capital with respect to the net-of-tax rate. This allows for a tractable optimal tax analysis with formulas expressed in terms of empirical elasticities and social preferences that can address several policy issues. These formulas have the advantage of being easily taken to the data to simulate optimal taxes, which we do using U.S. tax return data on labor and capital incomes. Second, we show how these results can be extended to a much broader class of utility functions and models. The same types of formulas carry over.
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This paper was revised on April 12, 2017
Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w22664