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Inflation and the User Cost of Capital: Does Inflation Still Matter?

In: The Costs and Benefits of Price Stability

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  • Darrel Cohen
  • Kevin Hassett
  • R. Glenn Hubbard

Abstract

In the late 1970s, many economists argued that the deleterious effects of inflation on the user cost of capital for U.S. firms were large. Since that time, the tax code has changed, the level of inflation has dropped significantly, and the of investment has evolved considerably. In this paper, we demonstrate that the net effect of these changes has--under reasonable assumptions--not relegated inflation to the sidelines. Indeed, we conclude that: (1) inflation, even at its relatively low current rates, continues to increase the user cost of capital significantly; (2) the marginal gain in investment in response to a percentage-point reduction in inflation is larger for lower levels of inflation; (3) the beneficial effects for steady-state consumption of lowering inflation even further than has been achieved to date would likely be significant; and (4) inflation has only a small impact on intratemporal distortion in the allocation of capital within the domestic business sector. We also show that the magnitude of the inflation effect on the user cost of capital is likely much smaller in open economies.

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This chapter was published in:

  • Martin Feldstein, 1999. "The Costs and Benefits of Price Stability," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number feld99-1, octubre-d.
    This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 7774.

    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:7774

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    1. Michael P. Devereux & R. Glenn Hubbard, 2000. "Taxing Multinationals," NBER Working Papers 7920, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Roger H. Gordon, 1980. "Inflation, Taxation, and Corporate Behavior," NBER Working Papers 0588, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. James R. Hines, Jr. & R. Glenn Hubbard, 1990. "Coming Home To America: Dividend Repatriations By U.S. Multinationals," NBER Chapters, in: Taxation in the Global Economy, pages 161-208 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Cummins, Jason G. & Hassett, Kevin A. & Hubbard, R. Glenn, 1996. "Tax reforms and investment: A cross-country comparison," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 62(1-2), pages 237-273, October.
    5. Martin Feldstein & Jerry Green & Eytan Sheshinski, 1983. "Inflation and Taxes in a Growing Economy with Debt and Equity Finance," NBER Chapters, in: Inflation, Tax Rules, and Capital Formation, pages 44-60 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Kevin A. Hassett, 2009. "Tax Policy and Investment," Books, American Enterprise Institute, number 24215, December.
    7. Auerbach, Alan J., 1989. "The deadweight loss from `non-neutral' capital income taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(1), pages 1-36, October.
    8. Martin Feldstein & Lawrence Summers, 1983. "Inflation and the Taxation of Capital Income in the Corporate Sector," NBER Chapters, in: Inflation, Tax Rules, and Capital Formation, pages 116-152 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Jason Cummins & R. Glenn Hubbard, 1995. "The Tax Sensitivity of Foreign Direct Investment: Evidence from Firm-Level Panel Data," NBER Chapters, in: The Effects of Taxation on Multinational Corporations, pages 123-152 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Mishkin, Frederic S., 1992. "Is the Fisher effect for real? : A reexamination of the relationship between inflation and interest rates," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 195-215, November.
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    14. Don Fullerton & Diane Lim Rogers, 1997. "Neglected Effects on the Uses Side: Even a Uniform Tax Would Change Relative Goods Prices," NBER Working Papers 5937, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    22. Feldstein, Martin & Hines, James R. & Hubbard, R. Glenn (ed.), 1995. "Taxing Multinational Corporations," National Bureau of Economic Research Books, University of Chicago Press, edition 1, number 9780226240947, April.
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    Cited by:
    1. Gaiotti, Eugenio & Generale, Andrea, 2001. "Does monetary policy have asymmetric effects? A look at the investment decisions of Italian firms," Working Paper Series 0110, European Central Bank.
    2. Gavin, William T. & Kydland, Finn E. & Pakko, Michael R., 2007. "Monetary policy, taxes, and the business cycle," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(6), pages 1587-1611, September.
    3. Ciżkowicz, Piotr & Rzońca, Andrzej, 2013. "Does inflation harm corporate investment? Empirical evidence from OECD countries," Economics - The Open-Access, Open-Assessment E-Journal, Kiel Institute for the World Economy, vol. 7(16), pages 1-38.
    4. Brazell, David W. & Mackie, James B. III, 2000. "Depreciation Lives and Methods: Current Issues in the U.S. Capital Cost Recovery System," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 53(n. 3), pages 531-62, September.
    5. Pierre Fortin & George A. Akerlof & William T. Dickens & George L. Perry, 2002. "Inflation and Unemployment in the U.S. and Canada: A Common Framework," Cahiers de recherche du Département des sciences économiques, UQAM 20-16, Université du Québec à Montréal, Département des sciences économiques.
    6. Eduardo Walker, 2002. "The Chilean Experience in Completing Markets with Financial Indexation," Central Banking, Analysis, and Economic Policies Book Series, in: Fernando Lefort & Klaus Schmidt-Hebbel & Norman Loayza (Series Editor) & Klaus Schmidt-Hebbel (Serie (ed.), Indexation, Inflation and Monetary Policy, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 9, pages 259-294 Central Bank of Chile.
    7. Ciżkowicz, Piotr & Rzońca, Andrzej, 2010. "Inflation and corporate investment in selected OECD countries in the years 1960-2005 – an empirical analysis," MPRA Paper 29846, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    8. Mackie, James B. III, 2002. "Unfinished Business of the 1986 Tax Reform Act: An Effective Tax Rate Analysis of Current Issues in theTaxation of Capital Income," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 55(N. 2), pages 293-337, June.
    9. Cohen, Darrel S. & Hassett, Kevin A., 1999. "Inflation, Taxes, and the Durability of Capital," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 52(n. 1), pages 91-98, March.
    10. Kenji Moriyama, 2008. "Investigating Inflation Dynamics in Sudan," IMF Working Papers 08/189, International Monetary Fund.
    11. O'Reilly, B., 1998. "The Benefits of Low Inflation: Taking Shock "A nickel ain't worth a dime any more" [Yogi Berra]," Technical Reports 83, Bank of Canada.
    12. Rochelle M. Edge & Jeremy B. Rudd, 2002. "Taxation and the Taylor principle," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2002-51, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).

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