Optimal taxation and debt with uninsurable risks to human capital accumulation
We consider an economy where individuals face uninsurable risks to their human capital accumulation, and analyze the optimal level of linear taxes on capital and labor income together with the optimal path of government debt. We show that in the presence of such risks it is beneficial to tax both labor and capital and to issue public debt. We also assess the quantitative importance of these findings, and show that the benefits of government debt and capital taxes both increase with the magnitude of idiosyncratic risks and the degree of relative risk aversion.
Human capital is an important component of wealth both at the individual and aggregate level, and its role has been investigated in various fields in economics. In public finance, Jones, Manuelli and Rossi (1997) show that the zero-capital-tax result of Chamley (1986) and Judd (1985)1 can be strengthened if human capital accumulation is explicitly taken into account. Specifically, they demonstrate that, in a deterministic economy with human capital accumulation, in the long run not only capital but also labor income taxes should be zero, hence the government must accumulate wealth - that is, public debt be negative - to finance its expenditure.