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Dividend Imputation, Investment and Capital Accumulation in Open Economies

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Chung Tran and Sebastian Wende
Abstract: A dividend imputation system is designed to address double taxation of capital income by allowing companies to pass profit taxes paid at the corporate level to shareholders in form of franking tax credits. In this paper, we study implications of divided imputation in a small open economy model with firm heterogeneity and an internationally integrated capital market. Our analysis indicates that dividend imputation has opposing effects on investment and capital accumulation. On one hand, it mitigates the adverse effects of double taxation and induces more saving and investment; on other hand, it raises the cost of investment for firms that are not fully imputed, which subsequently results in less investment. Moreover, different tax treatments for resident and foreign investors amplify frictions in reallocation of capital across firms, which prevents inflows of foreign capital from fully offsetting the shortage of domestic savings. International investors are not marginal investors in our small open economy setting. Overall, the net effect on capital accumulation is analytically ambiguous, depending on which force is dominant. Our quantitative results indicate that the positive force is dominant and removing dividend imputation leads to decreases in domestic savings, aggregate capital and output. Interestingly, the overall government transfers, while tax burdens are shifted towards high income households and foreign investors.
Keywords: Double taxation; Franking tax credit; Firm heterogeneity; Overlapping generations; Open economy; Dynamic general equilibrium; Welfare.
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