Consumption Taxes: Some Fundamental Transition Issues
NBER Working Paper No. 5290 (Also Reprint No. r2101)
A number of tax reform plans under discussion in the United States would replace the existing hybrid income-based system with a consumption-based system. In this paper I use uniform (single-rate) consumption and income taxes: (a) to explain how the problem of taxing 'old savings' or 'old capital' manifests itself in the shift from an income to a consumption base; (b) to indicate the tradeoffs that must be confronted in dealing with this phenomenon; (c) to show how price level changes that may or may not accompany a transition affect the distribution of gains and losses; (d) to sketch out how a transition might affect interest rates and asset prices (including owner-occupied housing); (e) to explore the case in equity for protecting the tax- free recovery of old savings; and (f) to emphasize the incentive problems that arise if savers and investors anticipate a change in the tax rate in a consumption-based system.
Published: Frontiers of Tax Reform, Michael J. Boskin, ed., pp. 123-150, (Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 1996).