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Tax Multipliers: Pitfalls in Measurement and Identification

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

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Daniel Riera-Crichton & Carlos A. Vegh & Guillermo Vuletin, 2012. "Tax Multipliers: Pitfalls in Measurement and Identification," NBER Working Papers 18497, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18497
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles
    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • F3 - International Economics - - International Finance
    • H20 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - General

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