Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance,
Stockholm School of Economics

No 623: Why Are Capital Income Taxes So High?

Martin Floden ()
Additional contact information
Martin Floden: Dept. of Economic Statistics, Stockholm School of Economics, Postal: Stockholm School of Economics, P.O. Box 6501, SE-113 83 Stockholm, Sweden

Abstract: The Ramsey optimal taxation theory implies that the tax rate on capital income should be zero in the long run. This result holds even if the social planner only cares about workers that do not hold assets, or if the planner only cares about any other group in the economy. This paper demonstrates that although all households agree that capital income taxation should be eliminated in the long run, they do not agree on how to eliminate these taxes. Wealthy households would prefer a reform that is funded mostly by higher taxes on labor income while households with little wealth would prefer a reform that is funded mostly by high taxes on initial wealth. Pareto improving reforms typically exist, but the welfare gains of such reforms are modest.

Keywords: optimal taxation; inequality; redistribution

JEL-codes: E60; H21

22 pages, March 8, 2006

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