Optimal capital income taxation

Optimal capital income taxation is a subarea of optimal tax theory which studies the design of taxes on capital income such that a given economic criterion like utility is optimized.[1]

Some have theorized that the optimal capital income tax is zero. Starting from the conceptualization of capital income as future consumption, the taxation of capital income corresponds to a differentiated consumption tax on present and future consumption. Consequently, a capital income tax results in the distortion of individuals' saving and consumption behavior as individuals substitute the more heavily taxed future consumption with current consumption. Due to these distortions, zero taxation of capital income might be optimal,[2] a result postulated by the Atkinson–Stiglitz theorem (1976) and the Chamley–Judd zero capital income tax result (1985/1986).

Subsequent work on optimal capital income taxation has elucidated the assumptions underlying the theoretical optimality of a zero capital income tax. Additionally, diverse arguments for a positive optimal capital income tax have been advanced.