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Optimal Taxation of Asset Income with Endogenous Government Consumption: Theory, Estimation and Welfare

Ben-Gad, M. Optimal Taxation of Asset Income with Endogenous Government Consumption: Theory, Estimation and Welfare. London: City University London.


This paper derives the Ramsey optimal policy for taxing asset income in a model where government expenditure is a function of net output or the inputs that produce it. Extending Judd (1999), I demonstrate that the canonical result that the the optimal tax on capital income is zero in the medium to long term is a special case of a more general model. Employing a vector error correction model to estimate the relationship between government consumption and net output for the United States between 1947Q1 to 2013Q2, I demonstrate that this special case is empirically implausible, and show how the cointegrating vector can be used to determine the optimal tax schedule. I simulate a version of the model using the empirical estimates to measure the welfare implications of changing the tax rate on asset income, and contrast these results with those generated in a version of the model where government consumption is purely exogenous. The shifting pattern of welfare measurements confirms the theoretical results. Given that the prevailing tax rate on asset income in the US is measured at 0.441, abolishing the tax completely still generates welfare improvements, though only by the equivalent of less than a one percent permanent increase in consumption—less than a third the implied welfare benefit when the endogeneity of the government consumption is ignored. The maximum welfare improvement from shifting part of the burden of tax from capital to labour is the equivalent of a permanent increase in consumption of between only 1.173 and 1.304% and is attained when the tax on asset income is lowered to between 0.18 and 0.2. Allowing the tax rate to vary over time raises the maximum welfare benefit to 1.31%. All the results are very robust to a wide range of elasticities of labour supply.

Publication Type: Report
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > Economics
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