Two papers on wealth taxation

Use It or Lose It: Efficiency Gains from Wealth Taxation

By Fatih Guvenen, Gueorgui Kambourov, Burhan Kuruscu, Sergio Ocampo-Diaz and Daphne Chen

This paper studies the quantitative implications of wealth taxation (as opposed to capital income taxation) in an incomplete markets model with return rate heterogeneity across individuals. The rate of return heterogeneity arises from the fact that some individuals have better entrepreneurial skills than others, allowing them to obtain a higher return on their wealth. With such heterogeneity, capital income and wealth taxes have different efficiency and distributional implications. Under capital income taxation, entrepreneurs who are more productive and, as a result, 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. Thus, in this environment, the tax burden shifts from productive entrepreneurs to unproductive ones if the capital income tax were replaced with a wealth tax. This reallocation increases aggregate productivity. Second, and at the same time, it increases wealth inequality in the population. To provide a quantitative assessment of these different effects, we build and simulate an overlapping generations model with individual-specific returns on capital income and with idiosyncratic shocks to labor income. Our results indicate that switching from a capital income tax to a wealth tax increases welfare by almost 8% through better allocation of capital. We also study optimal taxation in this environment and find that, relative to the benchmark, the optimal wealth tax increases welfare by 9.6% while the optimal capital income tax increases it by 6.3%.

Inheritance Taxation and Wealth Effects on the Labor Supply of Heirs

By Fabian Kindermann, Lukas Mayr and Dominik Sachs

Taxing bequests not only generates direct tax revenue, but can have a positive impact on the labor supply of heirs through wealth effects. This leads to an increase in future labor income tax revenue. How large is this effect? We use a state of the art life-cycle model that we calibrate to the German economy to answer this question. Our model successfully matches quasi-experimental evidence regarding the size of wealth effects on labor supply. Using this evidence directly for a back of the envelope calculation fails because (i) heirs anticipate the reduction in bequests through taxation and adjust their labor supply already prior to the actual act of bequeathing, and (ii) when bequest receipt is stochastic, even those who ex post end up not inheriting anything respond ex ante to a change in the expected size of bequests. We find that for each Euro of bequest tax revenue the government mechanically generates, it obtains an additional 9 Cents of labor income tax revenue (in net present value) through a higher labor supply of (non-)heirs.

A large crop of papers in this week’s NEP-DGE report yields two on an important topic of the day: estate (or inheritance) taxation. A lot of people need to be better informed before making law, and these paper are part of that bibliography.


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