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A retrospective evaluation of the effects of temporary partial expensing

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  • Darrel Cohen
  • Jason G. Cummins

Abstract

This paper examines how business investment responded to temporary partial expensing, first enacted in 2002 and expanded in 2003. In principle, partial expensing boosted the incentive to invest which should have had a discernable impact on spending. However, the tax changes did not occur in a vacuum, so it is challenging to isolate their impact. Our empirical approach exploits a feature of the tax change which, under certain assumptions, allows us to cleanly estimate its impact. Specifically, partial expensing provided relatively generous tax treatment for long-lived assets. We use this insight in order to construct a difference-in-difference estimator of the tax effects. In addition, the standard model of investment with capital adjustment costs predicts a run up in investment spending prior to expiration and a pothole just after. Our examination of the details of expenditure patterns before, during, and after partial expensing using both monthly and quarterly data suggests considerable ambiguity as to whether the model's predictions were borne out. In addition, anecdotal evidence provides only limited support for the effectiveness of temporary partial expensing.

Suggested Citation

  • Darrel Cohen & Jason G. Cummins, 2006. "A retrospective evaluation of the effects of temporary partial expensing," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2006-19, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgfe:2006-19
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Auerbach, Alan J, 1989. "Tax Reform and Adjustment Costs: The Impact on Investment and Market Value," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 30(4), pages 939-962, November.
    2. Marianne Bertrand & Esther Duflo & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2004. "How Much Should We Trust Differences-In-Differences Estimates?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 119(1), pages 249-275.
    3. Auerbach, Alan J. & Hassett, Kevin, 1992. "Tax policy and business fixed investment in the United States," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(2), pages 141-170, March.
    4. Rochelle M. Edge & Jeremy B. Rudd, 2005. "Temporary partial expensing in a general-equilibrium model," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2005-19, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    5. Lawrence H. Summers, 1987. "Investment Incentives and the Discounting of Depreciation Allowances," NBER Chapters,in: The Effects of Taxation on Capital Accumulation, pages 295-304 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Abel, Andrew B., 1982. "Dynamic effects of permanent and temporary tax policies in a q model of investment," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 9(3), pages 353-373.
    7. Christopher L. House & Matthew D. Shapiro, 2008. "Temporary Investment Tax Incentives: Theory with Evidence from Bonus Depreciation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(3), pages 737-768, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Glenn Follette & Byron Lutz, 2010. "Fiscal Policy in the United States: Automatic Stabilizers, Discretionary Fiscal Policy Actions, and the Economy," Revista de Economía y Estadística, Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, Facultad de Ciencias Económicas, Instituto de Economía y Finanzas, vol. 0(1), pages 41-73, January.
    2. Hanlon, Michelle & Heitzman, Shane, 2010. "A review of tax research," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(2-3), pages 127-178, December.
    3. Edgerton, Jesse, 2010. "Investment incentives and corporate tax asymmetries," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(11-12), pages 936-952, December.
    4. Christopher L. House & Matthew D. Shapiro, 2008. "Temporary Investment Tax Incentives: Theory with Evidence from Bonus Depreciation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(3), pages 737-768, June.
    5. Cristobal Marshall, 2010. "Is the Tax Credit for SME in Chile an Effective Policy to Boost Investment?," CID Working Papers 46, Center for International Development at Harvard University.

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    Keywords

    Investments ; Tax incentives ; Taxation;

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