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U.S. DEFENSE CONTRACTS DURING the TAX EXPENDITURE BATTLES of the 1980s

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  • Susan J. Guthrie
  • Hines, James R. Jr.

Abstract

This paper considers the impact of the tax treatment of military contractors on the cost and timing of U.S. military procurement. Prior to the early 1980s, taxpayers were permitted to defer tax obligations on profits earned from long-term contracts. Legislation passed in 1982, 1986, and 1987 required that at least 70 percent of the profits earned on long-term contracts be taxed as accrued, thereby significantly reducing the tax benefits associated with long term contracting. Comparing contracts that were ineligible for these tax benefits with those that were eligible, it appears that between 1981–1989 the duration of U.S. Department of Defense contracts shortened by an average of between one and two months, or somewhere between 10 and 23 percent of average contract length. This pattern implies that the tax benefits associated with long term contracts promoted artificial contract lengthening in the 1980s, and suggests that the Department of Defense ignores the federal income tax consequences of its procurement actions, thereby indirectly rewarding contractors who benefit from tax expenditures.

Suggested Citation

  • Susan J. Guthrie & Hines, James R. Jr., 2011. "U.S. DEFENSE CONTRACTS DURING the TAX EXPENDITURE BATTLES of the 1980s," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 64(2), pages 731-751, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:ntj:journl:v:64:y:2011:i:2:p:731-51
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Rogerson, William P, 1989. "Profit Regulation of Defense Contractors and Prizes for Innovation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(6), pages 1284-1305, December.
    2. Dharmapala, Dhammika, 1999. "Comparing tax expenditures and direct subsidies: the role of legislative committee structure," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 72(3), pages 421-454, June.
    3. Lichtenberg, Frank R., 1989. "How elastic is the government's demand for weapons?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(1), pages 57-78, October.
    4. Jean-Jacques Laffont & Jean Tirole, 1993. "A Theory of Incentives in Procurement and Regulation," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262121743, March.
    5. Susan J. Guthrie & Hines, James R. Jr., 2011. "U.S. DEFENSE CONTRACTS DURING the TAX EXPENDITURE BATTLES of the 1980s," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 64(2), pages 731-751, June.
    6. Hines, James R, Jr, 1996. "Altered States: Taxes and the Location of Foreign Direct Investment in America," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(5), pages 1076-1094, December.
    7. Hines, James Jr., 1994. "Credit and deferral as international investment incentives," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(2), pages 323-347, October.
    8. Naegelen, Florence & Mougeot, Michel, 1998. "Discriminatory public procurement policy and cost reduction incentives," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 67(3), pages 349-367, March.
    9. Hartley, Keith, 2007. "The Arms Industry, Procurement and Industrial Policies," Handbook of Defense Economics, Elsevier.
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    Cited by:

    1. Susan J. Guthrie & Hines, James R. Jr., 2011. "U.S. DEFENSE CONTRACTS DURING the TAX EXPENDITURE BATTLES of the 1980s," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 64(2), pages 731-751, June.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H25 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Business Taxes and Subsidies
    • H57 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Procurement

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