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Do Household Finances Constrain Unconventional Fiscal Policy?

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Listed:
  • Scott R. Baker

    (Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management, Department of Finance)

  • Lorenz Kueng

    (University of Lugano - Faculty of Economics; Swiss Finance Institute; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management)

  • Leslie McGranahan

    (Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago)

  • Brian Melzer

    (Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago)

Abstract

When the zero lower bound on nominal interest rate binds, monetary policy makers may lack traditional tools to stimulate aggregate demand. We investigate whether "unconventional" fiscal policy, in the form of p re-announced consumption tax changes, has the potential to meaningfully shift durables purchases intertemporally and how it is affected by consumer credit. In particular, we test whether car sales react in anticipation of future sales tax changes, leveraging 57 pre-announced changes in state sales tax rates from 1999-2017. We find evidence for substantial tax elasticities, with car sales rising by over 8% in the month before a 1% increase in the sales tax rate. Responses are heterogeneous across households and sensitive to supply of credit. Consumers with high credit risk scores are most able to pull purchases forward. At the same time, other effects such as customer composition and attention lead to an even larger tax elasticity during recessions, despite these credit frictions. We discuss policy implications and the likely magnitudes of tax changes necessary for any substantive long-term responses.

Suggested Citation

  • Scott R. Baker & Lorenz Kueng & Leslie McGranahan & Brian Melzer, 2020. "Do Household Finances Constrain Unconventional Fiscal Policy?," Swiss Finance Institute Research Paper Series 20-32, Swiss Finance Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:chf:rpseri:rp2032
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    Cited by:

    1. Victoria Baudisch & Matthias Neuenkirch, 2023. "Costly, but (Relatively) Ineffective? An Assessment of Germany’s Temporary VAT Rate Reduction During the Covid-19 Pandemic," Research Papers in Economics 2023-04, University of Trier, Department of Economics.
    2. Francesca Parodi, 2024. "Consumption Tax Cuts In A Recession," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 65(1), pages 117-148, February.
    3. Shoji, Toshiaki, 2022. "Menu costs and information rigidity: Evidence from the consumption tax hike in Japan," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 72(C).
    4. Scott R. Baker & Stephanie Johnson & Lorenz Kueng, 2021. "Shopping for Lower Sales Tax Rates," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 13(3), pages 209-250, July.
    5. Alisdair McKay & Johannes F. Wieland, 2021. "Lumpy Durable Consumption Demand and the Limited Ammunition of Monetary Policy," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 89(6), pages 2717-2749, November.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    consumer durables; counter-cyclical fiscal policy; intertemporal substitution;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • G01 - Financial Economics - - General - - - Financial Crises
    • G11 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Portfolio Choice; Investment Decisions
    • H31 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Household

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