Entrepreneurship and the Theory of Taxation

Reprint No. 2011:26

Author(s): Magnus Henrekson and Tino SanandajiYear: 2011 Title: Small Business Economics Volume (No.): 37 (2) Pages: 167–185
Online article (restrictions may apply)

A review of the literature on firm taxation reveals that the economics of entrepreneurship has not sufficiently been taken into consideration. We discuss how this affects conclusions derived from standard models of capital taxation when applied to entrepreneurial income. Some defining features of entrepreneurship important for analyzing the effects of taxation of owner-managed firms are identified. These include the lack of a well-functioning external market for entrepreneurial effort, limited access to external capital and complementarities between entrepreneurial innovation, effort and capital. Due to these constraints, the entrepreneurial project is tied to the individual owner–manager. The entrepreneur is unable to decouple saving decisions from investment decisions, and makes joint decisions on the supply of effort and capital. The return from successful entrepreneurial ventures can therefore not be readily divided into labor and capital income, in deep contrast to what is typically assumed in taxation theory. It is argued that when distinct attributes of entrepreneurship  are taken into account, certain conclusions of capital taxation models may no longer hold, including the neutrality of capital taxation in owner-managed firms. Cost of capital formulas derived from the behavior of public firms could underestimate distortions when applied to the investment behavior of entrepreneurial firms. For tax purposes and otherwise, it becomes useful to analyze return to entrepreneurial activity as income of a distinct factor of production. In this context, conceptual issues and the difficulties of measuring entrepreneurial income are discussed.


Henrekson, Magnus and Tino Sanandaji (2011), "Entrepreneurship and the Theory of Taxation". Small Business Economics 37(2), 167–185.

Magnus Henrekson


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