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The Macroeconomic Effects of Tax Changes: Estimates Based on a New Measure of Fiscal Shocks

  • Christina D. Romer
  • David H. Romer

This paper investigates the impact of changes in the level of taxation on economic activity. We use the narrative record -- presidential speeches, executive-branch documents, and Congressional reports -- to identify the size, timing, and principal motivation for all major postwar tax policy actions. This narrative analysis allows us to separate revenue changes resulting from legislation from changes occurring for other reasons. It also allows us to further separate legislated changes into those taken for reasons related to prospective economic conditions, such as countercyclical actions and tax changes tied to changes in government spending, and those taken for more exogenous reasons, such as to reduce an inherited budget deficit or to promote long-run growth. We then examine the behavior of output following these more exogenous legislated changes. The resulting estimates indicate that tax increases are highly contractionary. The effects are strongly significant, highly robust, and much larger than those obtained using broader measures of tax changes. The large effect stems in considerable part from a powerful negative effect of tax increases on investment. We also find that legislated tax increases designed to reduce a persistent budget deficit appear to have much smaller output costs than other tax increases.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 13264.

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Date of creation: Jul 2007
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Publication status: published as Christina D. Romer & David H. Romer, 2010. "The Macroeconomic Effects of Tax Changes: Estimates Based on a New Measure of Fiscal Shocks," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(3), pages 763-801, June.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13264
Note: DAE EFG ME PE
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  1. Karl Whelan & Jeremy Rudd, 2003. "Can Rational Expectations Sticky-Price Models Explain Inflation Dynamics?," Computing in Economics and Finance 2003 181, Society for Computational Economics.
  2. Francesco Giavazzi & Marco Pagano, 1990. "Can Severe Fiscal Contractions Be Expansionary? Tales of Two Small European Countries," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1990, Volume 5, pages 75-122 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  16. Christina D. Romer & David H. Romer, 1989. "Does Monetary Policy Matter? A New Test in the Spirit of Friedman and Schwartz," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1989, Volume 4, pages 121-184 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  18. Robert J. Gordon, 1997. "The Time-Varying NAIRU and Its Implications for Economic Policy," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 11(1), pages 11-32, Winter.
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