Por qué los impuestos a la riqueza no alcanzan

CAMBRIDGE – ¿Deben los países avanzados implementar impuestos a la riqueza para estabilizar y reducir la deuda pública en el mediano plazo? El habitualmente conservador Fondo Monetario Internacional ha prestado un apoyo sorprendentemente enfático a la idea. El FMI calcula que un impuesto único del 10 % sobre la riqueza, si se introduce rápida e inesperadamente, podría llevar nuevamente a muchos países europeos a sus niveles de deuda/PBI previos a la crisis. Es una idea interesante.

La justificación moral para un impuesto a la riqueza es actualmente más convincente de lo habitual, si consideramos que el desempleo aún se encuentra en niveles de recesión y que una profunda desigualdad económica presiona sobre las normas sociales. Si fuera realmente posible garantizar que el gravamen sobre la riqueza fuese temporario, un impuesto tal sería, en principio, mucho menos distorsivo que imponer elevadas tasas impositivas marginales sobre el ingreso. Desafortunadamente, si bien un impuesto a la riqueza puede constituir una forma sensata de ayudar a un país a salir de un profundo pozo fiscal, difícilmente constituye una panacea.

Para comenzar, los ingresos de los impuestos temporales sobre la riqueza pueden ser muy escurridizos. El economista Barry Eichengreenexploró en algún momento la imposición de gravámenes al capital luego de la Primera y la Segunda Guerras Mundiales. Descubrió que, debido a la fuga de capitales y las presiones políticas para demorar la implementación, los resultados a menudo eran desalentadores.

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