Investment timing effects of wealth taxes under uncertainty and irreversibility


We analyze the impact of wealth taxes on investment timing decisions under uncertainty and irreversibility by employing a real options model of the Dixit/Pindyck type. Considering that wealth taxes have been (re-)introduced or are under discussion in many countries, investors need decision rules for tax systems with wealth taxation. We integrate different valuation methods for wealth tax purposes, distinguish between broadly and narrowly defined wealth taxes and vary the wealth tax rate to ascertain which wealth tax design is more or less likely to accelerate or delay investment. Our main findings are threefold. First, historical cost valuation reduces the distortive timing effects of wealth taxation compared to fair value accounting. Second, broadening the wealth tax base tends to accelerate investment during high interest rate periods and delay investment during low interest rate periods. Our results predict that wealth taxes with a broad tax base are likely to discourage risky investment in times of near-zero interest rates. These distortive wealth tax base effects, however, can be avoided by granting sufficiently high depreciation deductions for wealth tax purposes. Third, the investment timing effects of wealth tax rate variations are very sensitive to the riskiness of the underlying investment. Moreover, investment timing effects crucially depend upon the depreciation rate for wealth tax purposes. A tax legislator who aims to encourage risk taking should introduce generous depreciation deductions. Our study indicates that if a wealth tax is considered to be politically inevitable, possible harmful investment effects can be mitigated by choosing appropriate valuation methods and parameters.

Participating Institutions

TRR 266‘s main locations are Paderborn University (Coordinating University), HU Berlin, and University of Mannheim. All three locations have been centers for accounting and tax research for many years. They are joined by researchers from LMU Munich, Frankfurt School of Finance and Management, WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management, ESMT Berlin, Goethe University Frankfurt and Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg who share the same research agenda.