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Wealth and Homeownership in Germany and Australia: The Role of Tax and Retirement Income Policy


Hans Fehr, Maurice Hofmann and George Kudrna 

Abstract: Although Germans and Australians have very similar incomes per capita, Australians hold significantly more wealth than Germans. In addition, they typically own their place of residence while in Germany a majority of households are renters. The question is to what extent these differences in wealth levels and patterns are induced by national tax and transfer policies. In order to shed light on this issue, we apply an overlapping generations model with tenure choice where households face labour income and lifespan uncertainty. The model is calibrated to Germany featuring unfunded pension benefits based on individual earnings points accumulated during the working phase and a dual income tax system. Then the Australian tax and pension structures are implemented sequentially in order to distinguish the impact of higher capital taxation as well as means-tested and funded pensions. Our simulation results indicate that the Australian tax and pension design has a dramatic impact on asset levels and structures, explaining more than two thirds of the observed differentials in asset levels and homeownership rates. While capital taxation and means-testing shift the asset structures towards residential properties, the superannuation system increases the overall wealth level.

Keywords: OLG model, stochastic general equilibrium, tenure choice, optimal pension design

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