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Optimal taxation with rent-seeking


Rothschild, Casey; Scheuer, Florian (2016). Optimal taxation with rent-seeking. Review of Economic Studies, 83(3):1225-1262.

Abstract

We develop a framework for optimal taxation when agents can earn their income both in traditional activities, where private and social products coincide, and in rent-seeking activities, where private returns exceed social returns either because they involve the capture of pre-existing rents or because they reduce the returns to traditional work. We characterize Pareto optimal income taxes that do not condition on how much of an individual's income is earned in each of the two activities. These optimal taxes feature an externality-corrective term, the magnitude of which depends both on the Pigouvian correction that would obtain if rent-seeking incomes could be perfectly targeted and on the relative impact of rent-seeking externalities on the private returns to traditional and to rent-seeking activities. If rent-seeking externalities primarily affect other rent-seekers, for example, the optimal correction lies strictly below the Pigouvian correction. A calibrated model indicates that the gap between the Pigouvian and optimal correction can be quantitatively important. Our results thus point to a hefty informational requirement for correcting rent-seeking externalities through the income tax code.

Abstract

We develop a framework for optimal taxation when agents can earn their income both in traditional activities, where private and social products coincide, and in rent-seeking activities, where private returns exceed social returns either because they involve the capture of pre-existing rents or because they reduce the returns to traditional work. We characterize Pareto optimal income taxes that do not condition on how much of an individual's income is earned in each of the two activities. These optimal taxes feature an externality-corrective term, the magnitude of which depends both on the Pigouvian correction that would obtain if rent-seeking incomes could be perfectly targeted and on the relative impact of rent-seeking externalities on the private returns to traditional and to rent-seeking activities. If rent-seeking externalities primarily affect other rent-seekers, for example, the optimal correction lies strictly below the Pigouvian correction. A calibrated model indicates that the gap between the Pigouvian and optimal correction can be quantitatively important. Our results thus point to a hefty informational requirement for correcting rent-seeking externalities through the income tax code.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Economics
Dewey Decimal Classification:330 Economics
Uncontrolled Keywords:Optimal taxation; rent-seeking; inequality; gfeneral equilibrium; multidimensional heterogeneity
Language:English
Date:March 2016
Deposited On:09 Aug 2017 12:52
Last Modified:18 Mar 2018 01:00
Publisher:Oxford University Press
ISSN:0034-6527
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1093/restud/rdw017

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