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R&D Tax Policy During the 1980s: Success or Failure?

In: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 7


  • Bronwyn H. Hall


R&D; tax policy in the United States during the 1980s is evaluated, with particular emphasis placed on quantifying the impact of the R&D; tax credit on the R&D; investment of manufacturing firms. Using publicly available data on R&D; spending at the firm level, I estimate an average tax price elasticity for R&D; spending which is in the neighborhood of unity in the short run. Although the effective credit rate is small (less than five percent until 1990), this relatively strong price response means that the amount of additional R&D; spending thus induced was greater than the cost in foregone tax revenue. The recent evolution of features of the U.S. corporate tax system which affect R&D; is also reviewed and my results are compared with those of previous researchers. The conclusion is that the R&D; tax credit seems to have had the intended effect, although it took several years for firms to fully adjust. I also argue that although the high correlation over time of R&D; spending at the firm level makes it difficult to estimate long-run effects precisely, the same high correlation makes it probable that these effects are large.
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Suggested Citation

  • Bronwyn H. Hall, 1993. "R&D Tax Policy During the 1980s: Success or Failure?," NBER Chapters,in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 7, pages 1-36 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:10876

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Jeffrey I. Bernstein & M. Ishaq Nadiri, 1982. "Financing and Investment in Plant and Equipment and Research and Development," NBER Working Papers 1017, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Partha Dasgupta & Joseph Stiglitz, 1980. "Uncertainty, Industrial Structure, and the Speed of R&D," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 11(1), pages 1-28, Spring.
    3. Roberts, Russell D, 1987. "Financing Public Goods," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 95(2), pages 420-437, April.
    4. Auerbach, Alan J., 1984. "Taxes, firm financial policy and the cost of capital: An empirical analysis," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(1-2), pages 27-57.
    5. Don Fullerton & Andrew B. Lyon, 1988. "Tax Neutrality and Intangible Capital," NBER Chapters,in: Tax Policy and the Economy: Volume 2, pages 63-88 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Bronwyn H. Hall, 1990. "The Manufacturing Sector Master File: 1959-1987," NBER Working Papers 3366, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Zvi Griliches, 1998. "Issues in Assessing the Contribution of Research and Development to Productivity Growth," NBER Chapters,in: R&D and Productivity: The Econometric Evidence, pages 17-45 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Altshuler, Rosanne, 1988. "A Dynamic Analysis of the Research and Experimentation Credit," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 41(4), pages 453-466, December.
    9. Altshuler, Rosanne, 1988. "A Dynamic Analysis of the Research and Experimentation Credit," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 41(4), pages 453-66, December.
    10. Ariel Pakes & Mark Schankerman, 1984. "The Rate of Obsolescence of Patents, Research Gestation Lags, and the Private Rate of Return to Research Resources," NBER Chapters,in: R&D, Patents, and Productivity, pages 73-88 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. James R. Hines, Jr., 1995. "Taxes, Technology Transfer, and the R&D Activities of Multinational Firms," NBER Chapters,in: The Effects of Taxation on Multinational Corporations, pages 225-252 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Van Reenen, John, 1997. "Why has Britain had slower R&D growth?," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 26(4-5), pages 493-507, December.
    3. Rafal Kierzenkowski, 2009. "The Challenge of Restoring French Competitiveness," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 720, OECD Publishing.
    4. Chang, Andrew C., 2014. "Tax Policy Endogeneity: Evidence from R&D Tax Credits," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2014-101, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    5. Chen, Victor Zitian & Li, Jing & Shapiro, Daniel M., 2012. "International reverse spillover effects on parent firms: Evidences from emerging-market MNEs in developed markets," European Management Journal, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 204-218.
    6. Aboal, Diego & Garda, Paula, 2015. "Does public financial support stimulate innovation and productivity? An impact evaluation," Revista CEPAL, Naciones Unidas Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe (CEPAL), April.
    7. Bloom, Nick & Griffith, Rachel & Van Reenen, John, 2002. "Do R&D tax credits work? Evidence from a panel of countries 1979-1997," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 85(1), pages 1-31, July.
    8. Castellacci, Fulvio & Lie, Christine Mee, 2015. "Do the effects of R&D tax credits vary across industries? A meta-regression analysis," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 44(4), pages 819-832.
    9. repec:eee:chieco:v:46:y:2017:i:c:p:50-66 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Guerzoni, Marco & Raiteri, Emilio, 2015. "Demand-side vs. supply-side technology policies: Hidden treatment and new empirical evidence on the policy mix," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 44(3), pages 726-747.
    11. Brown, James R. & Martinsson, Gustav & Petersen, Bruce C., 2017. "What promotes R&D? Comparative evidence from around the world," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 46(2), pages 447-462.

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