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Why Have Corporate Tax Revenues Declined? Another Look


  • Alan J. Auerbach


As a share of GDP, U.S. federal tax revenues from nonfinancial corporations have held relatively constant since the early 1980s, after falling precipitously during the late 1960s and the 1970s. But this relative constancy masks offsetting trends in the ratio of nonfinancial C corporation profits to GDP (declining) and the average tax rate on these profits (increasing). The average tax rate rose steadily between 1996 and 2003, an increase largely attributable to an unprecedented rise in the importance of tax losses. This rise casts some doubt on the importance of tax planning activities as a vehicle for reducing corporate taxes. So, too, does the relative stability of the rate of profit (relative to net assets), which might be expected to have declined had the understatement of profits for tax purposes been increasing.

Suggested Citation

  • Alan J. Auerbach, 2006. "Why Have Corporate Tax Revenues Declined? Another Look," NBER Working Papers 12463, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12463
    Note: PE

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Diego A. Comin & Thomas Philippon, 2006. "The Rise in Firm-Level Volatility: Causes and Consequences," NBER Chapters,in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2005, Volume 20, pages 167-228 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Mihir A. Desai, 2003. "The Divergence between Book Income and Tax Income," NBER Chapters,in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 17, pages 169-208 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Alan J. Auerbach, 2006. "Who Bears the Corporate Tax? A Review of What We Know," NBER Chapters,in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 20, pages 1-40 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Alan J. Auerbach & James M. Poterba, 1987. "Why Have Corporate Tax Revenues Declined?," NBER Chapters,in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 1, pages 1-28 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Michael P. Devereux & Rachel Griffith & Alexander Klemm, 2002. "Corporate income tax reforms and international tax competition," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 17(35), pages 449-495, October.
    6. Graham, John R., 1999. "Do personal taxes affect corporate financing decisions?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 73(2), pages 147-185, August.
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    JEL classification:

    • G32 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Financing Policy; Financial Risk and Risk Management; Capital and Ownership Structure; Value of Firms; Goodwill
    • H25 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Business Taxes and Subsidies

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