Search the Site

Taxing Capital Gains

(Photo: Philip Taylor)

Dividends in the U.S. are taxed at only 15 percent (much lower than wages/salaries).  The argument is that since corporate profits, from which dividends are paid, are already taxed, taxing dividends is double taxation.  But what about capital gains—why are they taxed at 15 percent too?  The standard argument is that we should be taxing real capital gains, not nominal gains.  Okay, but it would be easy to include the Consumer Price Index for each of many years in TurboTax or TaxCut, base taxes on real gains and tax the real gain at the same rate as wages. The administrative cost of calculating real gains has disappeared. Another argument for a lower tax on capital gains might be that investment/risk-taking is more responsive to net returns than is labor supply, justifying a lower tax rate as optimal taxation.  Perhaps, but at best the evidence is scarce.  My guess is that the real justification is the ability of wealthy people, who are the main beneficiaries of this tax giveaway, to get Congress to enhance their net incomes. (HT: PLM).