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Efficient Fiscal Policy and Amplification

  • Mark Aguiar
  • Manuel Amador
  • Gita Gopinath

We provide a rationale for the observed pro-cyclicality of tax policies in emerging markets and present a novel mechanism through which tax policy amplifies the business cycle. Our explanation relies on two features of emerging markets: limited access to financial markets and limited commitment to tax policy. We present a small open economy model with capital where a government maximizes the utility of a working population that has no access to financial markets and is subject to endowment shocks. The government's insurance motive generates pro-cyclical taxes on capital income. If the government could commit, this policy is not distortionary. However, we show that if the government lacks the ability to commit, the best fiscal policy available exacerbates the economic cycle by distorting investment during recessions. We characterize the mechanism through which limited commitment generates cycles in investment in an environment where under commitment investment would be constant. We extend our results to standard productivity shocks and to the case where the government has access to intra-period insurance markets. Lastly, we conjecture that our results would hold as well if the government could issue debt subject to borrowing constraints.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 11490.

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Date of creation: Jul 2005
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11490
Note: IFM PE
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  1. Kenneth L. Judd, 1982. "Redistributive Taxation in a Simple Perfect Foresight Model," Discussion Papers 572, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  2. Andrew Atkeson & V.V. Chari & Patrick J. Kehoe, 1999. "Taxing capital income: a bad idea," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Sum, pages 3-17.
  3. Mark Aguiar & Gita Gopinath, 2004. "Emerging Market Business Cycles: The Cycle is the Trend," NBER Working Papers 10734, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Patrick J. Kehoe & Fabrizio Perri, 2002. "International Business Cycles with Endogenous Incomplete Markets," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(3), pages 907-928, May.
  5. Zhu, Xiaodong, 1992. "Optimal fiscal policy in a stochastic growth model," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 58(2), pages 250-289, December.
  6. Ernesto Talvi & Carlos A. Vegh, 2000. "Tax Base Variability and Procyclical Fiscal Policy," NBER Working Papers 7499, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Graciela L. Kaminsky & Carmen M. Reinhart & Carlos A. Vegh, 2004. "When it Rains, it Pours: Procyclical Capital Flows and Macroeconomic Policies," NBER Working Papers 10780, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Alberto Alesina & Guido Tabellini, 2005. "Why is Fiscal Policy often Procyclical?," CESifo Working Paper Series 1556, CESifo Group Munich.
  9. Guillermo A. Calvo, 2003. "Explaining Sudden Stops, Growth Collapse and BOP Crises: The Case of Distortionary Output Taxes," NBER Working Papers 9864, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Benhabib, Jess & Rustichini, Aldo, 1997. "Optimal Taxes without Commitment," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 77(2), pages 231-259, December.
  11. V. V. Chari & Patrick J. Kehoe, 1998. "Optimal fiscal and monetary policy," Staff Report 251, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  12. Chari, V V & Christiano, Lawrence J & Kehoe, Patrick J, 1994. "Optimal Fiscal Policy in a Business Cycle Model," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(4), pages 617-52, August.
  13. Ricardo J. Caballero & Arvind Krishnamurthy, 2004. "Fiscal Policy and Financial Depth," NBER Working Papers 10532, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Michael Gavin & Roberto Perotti, 1997. "Fiscal Policy in Latin America," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1997, Volume 12, pages 11-72 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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