For the Weekend: Two Nice Girls: Sweet Jane (with Affection)

The "optimal tax" literature in economics has always been greatly distorted by the fact that models simple enough to solve bring with them lots of baggage that leads to misleading—and usually anti-egalitarian and anti-equitable growth—conclusions that would not follow if we had better control over our theories. Here Saez and Stantcheva make significant progress in resolving this problem: Emmanuel Saez and Stefanie Stantcheva: A simpler theory of optimal capital taxation: "We first consider a simple model with utility functions linear in consumption and featuring heterogeneous utility for wealth...

...This allows for a tractable optimal tax analysis with formulas expressed in terms of empirical elasticities and social preferences that can address many important policy questions. These formulas can easily be taken to the data to simulate optimal taxes, which we do using U.S. tax return data on labor and capital incomes. Second, we show how these results can be extended to the case with concave utility for consumption. The same types of formulas carry over by appropriately defining elasticities. We show that one can recover all the results from the simpler model using a new and non standard steady state approach that respects individual preferences even with a fully general utility function...


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