Seminars

Burhanettin Kuruscu - University of Toronto

November 13, 2017
5:00 pmto6:30 pm

Use It or Lose It: Efficiency Gains from Wealth Taxation (with Fatih Guvenen, Gueorgui Kambourov, Sergio Ocampo-Diaz and Daphne Chenk)

Abstract:
This paper studies the quantitative implications of wealth taxation (tax on the stock of wealth) as opposed to capital income taxation (tax on the income flow from capital) in an overlapping-generations incomplete-markets model with rate of return heterogeneity across individuals. With such heterogeneity, capital income and wealth taxes have opposite implications for efficiency and some key distributional outcomes. Under capital income taxation, entrepreneurs who are more productive, and therefore generate more income, pay higher taxes. Under wealth taxation, on the other hand, entrepreneurs who have similar wealth levels pay similar taxes regardless of their productivity, which expands the base and shifts the tax burden toward unproductive entrepreneurs. This reallocation increases aggregate productivity and output. In the simulated model calibrated to the US data, a revenue-neutral tax reform that replaces capital income tax with a wealth tax raises welfare by about 8% in consumption-equivalent terms. Moving on to optimal taxation, the optimal wealth tax is positive, yields even larger welfare gains than the tax reform, and is preferable to optimal capital income taxes. Interestingly, optimal wealth taxes result in more even consumption and leisure distributions (despite the wealth distribution becoming more dispersed), which is the opposite of what optimal capital income taxes imply. Consequently, wealth taxes can yield both efficiency and distributional gains.