Capital Income Taxes and the Benefit of Price Stability

Martin Feldstein

NBER Working Paper No. 6200
Issued in September 1997
NBER Program(s):The Economic Fluctuations and Growth Program, The Monetary Economics Program, The Public Economics Program

Going from low inflation to price stability involves a short term loss (associated with the" higher unemployment rate required to reduce the inflation) and results in a series of welfare gains" in all future years. The primary source of these gains is the reduction in the distortions that result" from the interaction of tax rules and inflation. The paper quantifies the gains associated with" reducing the distortion in favor of current consumption rather than future consumption and in" favor of the consumption of owner occupied housing. These tax effects are much larger than the" effect on the demand for money that is generally emphasized in studies of the distorting effect of" inflation. The seignorage gains are also small in comparison to other effects of the tax-inflation" interaction. The estimates imply that the annual value of the net benefits of going from two" percent inflation to price stability are about one percent of GDP. Discounting this growing" stream of benefits at a real discount rate of five percent implies a net present value of about more" than 30 percent of GDP. All estimates of the short-run cost of going from low inflation to price" stability are less than this.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w6200


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