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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. 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.
  2. Paul Beaudry & Franck Portier, 2004. "Stock Prices, News and Economic Fluctuations," NBER Working Papers 10548, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  8. Hall, Alastair & Inoue, Atsushi & Nason M, James & Rossi, Barbara, 2007. "Information Criteria for Impulse Response Function Matching Estimation of DSGE Models," Working Papers 07-04, Duke University, Department of Economics.
  9. Leeper, Eric M. & Yang, Shu-Chun Susan, 2008. "Dynamic scoring: Alternative financing schemes," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(1-2), pages 159-182, February.
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  11. 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.
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  13. Susan Yang, Shu-Chun, 2005. "Quantifying tax effects under policy foresight," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(8), pages 1557-1568, November.
  14. 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.
  15. Jaimovich, Nir & Rebelo, Sérgio, 2006. "Can News About the Future Drive the Business Cycle?," CEPR Discussion Papers 5877, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. Nicholas S. Souleles, 1999. "The Response of Household Consumption to Income Tax Refunds," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(4), pages 947-958, September.
  19. Souleles, Nicholas S., 2002. "Consumer response to the Reagan tax cuts," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 85(1), pages 99-120, July.
  20. Sevin Yeltekin & Hanno Lustig & Chris Sleet, 2004. "Does the US government hedge against government expenditure risk?," 2004 Meeting Papers 48, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  21. Enrique G. Mendoza & Assaf Razin & Linda L. Tesar, 1994. "Effective Tax Rates in Macroeconomics: Cross-Country Estimates of Tax Rates on Factor Incomes and Consumption," NBER Working Papers 4864, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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