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The Aggregate Effects of Anticipated and Unanticipated U.S. Tax Policy Shocks: Theory and Empirical Evidence

  • Karel Mertens
  • Morten O. Ravn

We provide empirical evidence on the effects of tax liability changes in the United States. We make a distinction between “surprise” and “anticipated” tax shocks. Surprise tax cuts give rise to a large boom in the economy. Anticipated tax liability tax cuts are instead associated with a contraction in output, investment and hours worked prior to their implementation. After their implementation, anticipated tax liability cuts lead to an economic expansion. We build a DSGE model with changes in tax rates that may be anticipated or not, estimate key parameters using a simulation estimator and show that it can account for the main features of the data. We argue that tax shocks are empirically important for U.S. business cycles and that the Reagan tax cut, which was largely anticipated, was a main factor behind the early 1980’s recession.

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Paper provided by European University Institute in its series Economics Working Papers with number ECO2008/05.

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Date of creation: 2008
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Handle: RePEc:eui:euiwps:eco2008/05
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  1. Alastair R. Hall & Atsushi Inoue & James M Nason & Barbara Rossi, 2009. "Information Criteria for Impulse Response Function Matching Estimation of DSGE Models," Centre for Growth and Business Cycle Research Discussion Paper Series 127, Economics, The Univeristy of Manchester.
  2. Jean-Pierre DANTHINE & John B. DONALDSON & Thore JOHNSEN, 1997. "Productivity Growth, Consumer Confidence and the Business Cycle," Cahiers de Recherches Economiques du Département d'Econométrie et d'Economie politique (DEEP) 9711, Université de Lausanne, Faculté des HEC, DEEP.
  3. Ramey, Valerie A & Francis, Neville, 2002. "Is The Technology-Driven Real Business Cycle Hypothesis Dead? Shocks and Aggregate Fluctuations Revisted," University of California at San Diego, Economics Working Paper Series qt6x80k3nx, Department of Economics, UC San Diego.
  4. Paul Beaudry & Franck Portier, 2004. "Stock Prices, News and Economic Fluctuations," NBER Chapters, in: Enhancing Productivity (NBER-CEPR-TCER-Keio conference) National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  6. Nir Jaimovich & Sergio Rebelo, 2006. "Can News About the Future Drive the Business Cycle?," NBER Working Papers 12537, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Anton Braun, R., 1994. "Tax disturbances and real economic activity in the postwar United States," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 33(3), pages 441-462, June.
  8. Jim Nason & Barbara Rossi & Atsushi Inoue & Alastair Hall, 2007. "Information Criteria for Impulse Response Function Matching Estimation," 2007 Meeting Papers 293, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  9. Christina D. Romer & David H. Romer, 2007. "The Macroeconomic Effects of Tax Changes: Estimates Based on a New Measure of Fiscal Shocks," NBER Working Papers 13264, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Ramey, Valerie A. & Shapiro, Matthew D., 1998. "Costly capital reallocation and the effects of government spending," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 145-194, June.
  11. Eric M. Leeper & Shu-Chun Susan Yang, 2006. "Dynamic Scoring: Alternative Financing Schemes," NBER Working Papers 12103, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Souleles, Nicholas S., 2002. "Consumer response to the Reagan tax cuts," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 85(1), pages 99-120, July.
  13. Lawrence J. Christiano & Martin Eichenbaum & Charles Evans, 2001. "Nominal rigidities and the dynamic effects of a shock to monetary policy," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue Jun.
  14. Beaudry, Paul & Portier, Franck, 2004. "An exploration into Pigou's theory of cycles," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 51(6), pages 1183-1216, September.
  15. Susan Yang, Shu-Chun, 2005. "Quantifying tax effects under policy foresight," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(8), pages 1557-1568, November.
  16. Mendoza, Enrique G. & Razin, Assaf & Tesar, Linda L., 1994. "Effective tax rates in macroeconomics: Cross-country estimates of tax rates on factor incomes and consumption," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 34(3), pages 297-323, December.
  17. Jonathan A. Parker, 1999. "The Reaction of Household Consumption to Predictable Changes in Social Security Taxes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(4), pages 959-973, September.
  18. Cogley, Timothy & Nason, James M, 1995. "Output Dynamics in Real-Business-Cycle Models," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(3), pages 492-511, June.
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  20. Poterba, James M, 1988. "Are Consumers Forward Looking? Evidence from Fiscal Experiments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(2), pages 413-18, May.
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