2018/01: The tenuous case for an annual wealth tax
The purpose of this paper is to critically evaluate to case for an annual wealth tax as part of a nation’s tax system. To do so we review current received wisdom on the elements of a good tax system drawing on the normative tax design literature, recent tax commission findings and best practices. Naturally, the preferred tax system varies across nations because of historical and institutional factors, social norms and exposure of the national economy to international influences, including membership in organizations. Nonetheless, there are a number of design features that are common across countries, especially with regard to the choice of a tax base. To anticipate our conclusions, in our judgment the case for an annual wealth tax is not strong, as long as other elements of the taxation of assets are in place. In particular, if capital income is appropriately taxed and if there is an inheritance tax in place, a wealth tax adds relatively little of substance and entails additional administrative and political costs.