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Costly, but (Relatively) Ineffective? An Assessment of Germany’s Temporary VAT Rate Reduction during the Covid-19 Pandemic

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  • Victoria Baudisch
  • Matthias Neuenkirch

Abstract

We evaluate Germany’s temporary value-added tax (VAT) rate reduction as a tool to stimulate consumer spending during the Covid-19 pandemic using a comparative case study approach. We construct a credible counterfactual for Germany in a two-step procedure. First, we carry out a careful pre-selection of the donor pool countries to obtain a control group that is highly similar to Germany regarding important post-treatment characteristics. Second, we apply a reweighting scheme on the pre-selected donor countries. The synthetic control group only differs from Germany in the way that it did not implement the temporary VAT rate reduction. Our results indicate that the German VAT cut policy and partial VAT reductions in other countries were relatively ineffective in stimulating consumption with regards to their costs when compared to other measures such as (targeted) direct cash transfers. We attribute this to the fact that direct cash transfers are more comprehensible, salient, and actionable, in particular, in a dynamic environment with high uncertainty induced by unclear future economic prospects.

Suggested Citation

  • Victoria Baudisch & Matthias Neuenkirch, 2023. "Costly, but (Relatively) Ineffective? An Assessment of Germany’s Temporary VAT Rate Reduction during the Covid-19 Pandemic," CESifo Working Paper Series 10417, CESifo.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_10417
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    1. Cardani, Roberta & Pfeiffer, Philipp & Ratto, Marco & Vogel, Lukas, 2023. "The COVID-19 recession on both sides of the Atlantic: A model-based comparison," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 158(C).

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    consumption; Covid-19; synthetic control; temporary VAT cut; unconventional fiscal policy;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy; Modern Monetary Theory
    • E65 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Studies of Particular Policy Episodes
    • H31 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Household

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