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“Capital Taxation in Japan and South Korea, the 1990s–2010s: Similar Outcomes, Different Trajectories” (KIRL Working Paper 20-05)

Sung Ho Park

Author

Sung Ho Park 


Title 
“Capital Taxation in Japan and South Korea, the 1990s–2010s: Similar Outcomes, Different Trajectories” 
(KIRL Working Paper 20-05->Forthcoming in Journal of Contemporary Asia)



Year
2020

Abstract

The author examines the trajectories of capital tax policies in Japan and South Korea over recent decades. Historically, the two countries presented an ideal case for studying fiscal developmentalism in East Asia. Total taxation was low, although capital owners assumed higher tax burdens than workers and consumers. From the 1990s to 2010s, both countries underwent a series of market-oriented tax reforms. A large body of political economy literature contends that the tax structures of these countries became increasingly neoliberal during this period. Cuts in capital taxes were the primary focus of such changes. The present study seeks to review this neoliberalist interpretation of the capital tax policies of Japan and South Korea. Through an examination of statutory and effective tax rate data, it confirms that no “race-to-the-bottom” cutbacks happened to capital taxation in these countries. Despite sharing this common ground, however, Japan’s approach constitutes a more regressive case of capital tax adjustment than South Korea’s. The author elucidates the reasons behind this difference by employing a revised partisan theory of capital taxation. The empirical analysis demonstrates the validity of this claim by examining eight cases of partisan governments in Japan and South Korea from the 1990s to the 2010.

 

Keywords: Capital taxation, average effective tax rate (AETR), government partisanship, Japan, South Korea