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Tax Multipliers: Pitfalls in Measurement and Identification

  • Daniel Riera-Crichton
  • Carlos A. Vegh
  • Guillermo Vuletin

We contribute to the literature on tax multipliers by analyzing the pitfalls in identification and measurement of tax shocks. Our main focus is on disentangling the discussion regarding the identification of exogenous tax policy shocks (i.e., changes in tax policy that are not the result of policymakers responding to output fluctuations) from the discussion related to the measurement of tax policy (i.e., finding a tax policy variable under the direct control of the policymaker). For this purpose, we build a novel value-added tax rate dataset and the corresponding cyclically- adjusted revenue measure at a quarterly frequency for 14 industrial countries for the period 1980-2009. On the identification front, our findings favor the use of narratives à la Romer and Romer (2010) to identify exogenous fiscal shocks as opposed to the identification via SVAR. On the (much less explored) measurement front, our results strongly support the use of tax rates as a true measure of the tax policy instrument as opposed to widely-used, revenue-based measures, such as cyclically-adjusted revenues. While tax multipliers tend to be very small (in absolute value) or even positive when using cyclically-adjusted revenues, they are significantly negative (i.e., tax policy is contractionary) when using tax rates.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 18497.

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Date of creation: Oct 2012
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18497
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  1. John Cogan & Tobias Cwik & John Taylor & Volker Wieland, 2009. "New Keynesian Versus Old Keynesian Government Spending Multipliers," Discussion Papers 08-030, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
  2. Burnside, Craig & Eichenbaum, Martin & Fisher, Jonas D. M., 2004. "Fiscal shocks and their consequences," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 115(1), pages 89-117, March.
  3. Carlos A. Vegh & Guillermo Vuletin, 2012. "How is Tax Policy Conducted over the Business Cycle?," NBER Working Papers 17753, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Alan J. Auerbach & Yuriy Gorodnichenko, 2012. "Fiscal Multipliers in Recession and Expansion," NBER Chapters, in: Fiscal Policy after the Financial Crisis, pages 63-98 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Christina D. Romer & David H. Romer, 2012. "The Incentive Effects of Marginal Tax Rates: Evidence from the Interwar Era," NBER Working Papers 17860, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. King, R.G. & Baxter, M., 1990. "Fiscal Policy In General Equilibrium," RCER Working Papers 244, University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER).
  7. Michael Woodford, 2011. "Simple Analytics of the Government Expenditure Multiplier," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(1), pages 1-35, January.
  8. von Hagen, Jurgen & Strauch, Rolf R, 2001. " Fiscal Consolidations: Quality, Economic Conditions, and Success," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 109(3-4), pages 327-46, December.
  9. Eric M. Leeper & Todd B. Walker & Shu-Chun Susan Yang, 2008. "Fiscal Foresight: Analytics and Econometrics," NBER Working Papers 14028, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Carlo Favero & Francesco Giavazzi, 2007. "Debt and the Effects of Fiscal Policy," NBER Working Papers 12822, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Ethan Ilzetzki & Enrique G. Mendoza & Carlos A. Végh, 2010. "How Big (Small?) are Fiscal Multipliers?," NBER Working Papers 16479, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. JonasD.M. Fisher & Ryan Peters, 2010. "Using Stock Returns to Identify Government Spending Shocks," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 120(544), pages 414-436, 05.
  13. Olivier Blanchard & Roberto Perotti, 1999. "An Empirical Characterization of the Dynamic Effects of Changes in Government Spending and Taxes on Output," NBER Working Papers 7269, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Roberto Perotti, 2011. "The Effects of Tax Shocks on Output: Not So Large, But Not Small Either," NBER Working Papers 16786, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Favero, Carlo A. & Giavazzi, Francesco, 2010. "Reconciling VAR-based and Narrative Measures of the Tax-Multiplier," CEPR Discussion Papers 7769, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  16. Graciela L. Kaminsky & Carmen M. Reinhart & Carlos A. Végh, 2005. "When It Rains, It Pours: Procyclical Capital Flows and Macroeconomic Policies," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2004, Volume 19, pages 11-82 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Valerie A. Ramey, 2009. "Identifying Government Spending Shocks: It's All in the Timing," NBER Working Papers 15464, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Robert J. Gordon & Robert Krenn, 2010. "The End of the Great Depression 1939-41: Policy Contributions and Fiscal Multipliers," NBER Working Papers 16380, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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