Economic Depreciation, Accrual Taxation, and the Samuelson Theorem: An Essay on the Structure of Capital Income Taxation

38 Pages Posted: 31 Mar 2012 Last revised: 3 Apr 2012

Theodore S. Sims

Boston University School of Law

Date Written: March 30, 2012

Abstract

Samuelson (1964) showed that an income tax with an allowance for "economic" depreciation leads to asset valuations that are independent of their holders’ marginal rates of tax. The tax system is then "neutral," in the sense that assets have the same value to all, irrespective of whether or at what rate they are taxed. In this essay I illustrate and show formally that taxation of cash flow minus an allowance for economic depreciation leads to the taxation of value as it accrues. That is, economic depreciation and pure accrual taxation are exactly equivalent. I suggest also that the form of "depreciation" allowance that gives rise to this result has implications for neutral taxation of capital income that extend beyond depreciation as such, and may help to improve our understanding of some of the historically more vexing details of property income taxation.

Keywords: capital income taxation, economic depreciation, accrual taxation

JEL Classification: H21, H25, K34

Suggested Citation

Sims, Theodore S., Economic Depreciation, Accrual Taxation, and the Samuelson Theorem: An Essay on the Structure of Capital Income Taxation (March 30, 2012). Boston Univ. School of Law, Law and Economics Research Paper No. 12-16. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2031533 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2031533

Theodore S. Sims (Contact Author)

Boston University School of Law ( email )

765 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
United States

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