By Makoto Nakajima
This paper quantitatively investigates capital income taxation in the general-equilibrium overlapping generations model with household heterogeneity and housing. Housing tax policy is found to aﬀect how capital income should be taxed, due to substitution between housing and non-housing capital. Given the existing U.S. preferential tax treatment for owner-occupied housing, the optimal capital income tax rate is close to zero (1%), contrary to the high optimal capital income tax rate found with overlapping generations models without housing. A low capital income tax rate improves welfare by narrowing a tax wedge between housing and non-housing capital; the narrowed tax wedge indirectly nullifies the subsidies (taxes) for homeowners (renters) and corrects over-investment to housing. Naturally, when the preferential tax treatment for owner-occupied housing is eliminated, a high capital income tax rate improves welfare as in the model without housing.
The current debate about capital income (and wealth) taxes is neglecting an important dimension, as this paper nicely shows: how housing is taxed. This is especially important for international comparisons.