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The Tax Reform Act Of 1986 And Economic Growth


  • Patric H. Hendershott


Early tax reform proposals listed economic growth as a major goal, and some even gave explicit estimates of the expected increase in the long run output path that would follow from enactment. The 1986 Tax Act does not mention growth, much less give estimates of the expected increase, for good reason. The 1986 Tax Act will likely reduce the long-run output path by two to four percent. A revenue-neutral tax reform that raises the standard deduction and personal exemption cannot, in general, increase the bundle of goods one can purchase with an additional hour worked. Cuts in marginal personal tax rates can be achieved by broadening the tax base and shifting the tax burden to businesses. However, while the after-tax wage will increase, so will the after-tax cost of goods consumed, both currently and in the future, and thus work effort is unlikely to rise. Similarly, a tax reform that shifts the tax burden from labor and existing capital to new investments will likely lower saving and reallocate capital away from industrial uses. While the Tax Act will increase the efficiency of business investment, the potential efficiency gains are so small that actual gains will be swamped by the direct effect of a smaller business capital stock.

Suggested Citation

  • Patric H. Hendershott, 1988. "The Tax Reform Act Of 1986 And Economic Growth," NBER Working Papers 2553, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:2553
    Note: PE

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Edmund S. Phelps, 1962. "The New View of Investment: A Neoclassical Analysis," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 76(4), pages 548-567.
    2. Yolanda K. Henderson, 1986. "Lessons from federal reform of business taxes," New England Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, issue Nov, pages 9-25.
    3. Boskin, Michael J, 1978. "Taxation, Saving, and the Rate of Interest," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(2), pages 3-27, April.
    4. Don Fullerton & Andrew B. Lyon, 1988. "Tax Neutrality and Intangible Capital," NBER Chapters,in: Tax Policy and the Economy: Volume 2, pages 63-88 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Fullerton, Don & Henderson, Yolanda Kodrzycki, 1989. "A Disaggregate Equilibrium Model of the Tax Distortions among Assets, Sectors, and Industries," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 30(2), pages 391-413, May.
    6. Steven F. Venti & David A. Wise, 1987. "IRAs and Saving," NBER Chapters,in: The Effects of Taxation on Capital Accumulation, pages 7-52 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Edgar K. Browning & Jacquelene M. Browning, 1985. "Why Not a True Flat Rate Tax?," Cato Journal, Cato Journal, Cato Institute, vol. 5(2), pages 629-656, Fall.
    8. Thomas Downs & Patric H. Hendershott, 1986. "Tax Policy and Stock Prices," NBER Working Papers 2094, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Paul Krugman, 1985. "Fiscal Policy, Interest Rates, and Exchange Rates: Some Simple Analytics," Working papers 391, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
    10. Michael J. Boskin, 1978. "Taxation, Saving, and the Rate of Interest," NBER Chapters,in: Research in Taxation, pages 3-27 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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