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Inflation, taxes, and the durability of capital

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  • Darrel Cohen
  • Kevin A. Hassett

Abstract

Auerbach (1979, 1981) has demonstrated that inflation can lead to large inter-asset distortions, with the negative effects of higher inflation unambiguously declining with asset life. We show that this is true only if depreciation is treated as geometric for tax purposes. When depreciation is straightline, higher inflation can have the opposite effect, discouraging investment in long-lived assets. Since our current system can be thought of as a mixture of straightline and geometric, the sign of the inter-asset distortion is indeterminate. We show that under current U.S. tax rules, the "straightline" and "geometric" effects approximately cancel for equipment, causing almost no inter-asset distortions. For structures, inflation clearly causes substitution into long-lived assets.

Suggested Citation

  • Darrel Cohen & Kevin A. Hassett, 1997. "Inflation, taxes, and the durability of capital," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 1997-53, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgfe:1997-53
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Auerbach, Alan J, 1983. "Taxation, Corporate Financial Policy and the Cost of Capital," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 21(3), pages 905-940, September.
    2. Auerbach, Alan J, 1981. "Inflation and the Tax Treatment of Firm Behavior," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(2), pages 419-423, May.
    3. Auerbach, Alan J., 1979. "Share valuation and corporate equity policy," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 11(3), pages 291-305, June.
    4. Darrel Cohen & Kevin Hassett & R. Glenn Hubbard, 1999. "Inflation and the User Cost of Capital: Does Inflation Still Matter?," NBER Chapters,in: The Costs and Benefits of Price Stability, pages 199-234 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Martin S. Feldstein, 1997. "The Costs and Benefits of Going from Low Inflation to Price Stability," NBER Chapters,in: Reducing Inflation: Motivation and Strategy, pages 123-166 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Auerbach, Alan J, 1979. "Inflation and the Choice of Asset Life," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(3), pages 621-638, June.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Goolsbee, Austan, 2004. "Taxes and the quality of capital," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(3-4), pages 519-543, March.
    2. Hassett, Kevin A & Hubbard, R Glenn, 1998. "Are Investment Incentives Blunted by Changes in Prices of Capital Goods?," International Finance, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 1(1), pages 103-125, October.
    3. Alexander David & Pietro Veronesi, 2009. "What Ties Return Volatilities to Price Valuations and Fundamentals?," NBER Working Papers 15563, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Chang Nam & Doina Radulescu, 2007. "Effects of Corporate Tax Reforms on SMEs’ Investment Decisions under the Particular Consideration of Inflation," Small Business Economics, Springer, vol. 29(1), pages 101-118, June.

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    Keywords

    Inflation (Finance) ; Taxation ; Capital;

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