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Economic Efficiency in Recent Tax Reform History: Policy Reversals or Consistent Improvements?

  • Don Fullerton
  • James B. Mackie

The Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 reduced personal marginal tax rates and provided significant business tax breaks. Subsequent changes through 1985 cut back on business allowances. The Tax Reform Act of 1986 reduced marginal rates again, but added significantly to business taxes. Was there any unifying theme to these tax changes, or do they represent frequent changes in course for tax policy? This paper uses a general equilibrium model capable of second- best analysis to investigate the net effects on efficiency of each of these changes in capital income taxation. Under the new view that dividend taxes are unimportant investment disincentives, there is no set of other parameters in the model for which these changes generate improvements in efficiency. Under the old view that dividend taxes are important, however, these changes all increase efficiency for a wide range of values for other parameters in the model.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 2593.

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Date of creation: May 1988
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Publication status: published as National Tax Journal, Vol. 42, No. 1, pp 1-13, (March 1989).
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:2593
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  1. Alan J. Auerbach, 1980. "Wealth Maximization and the Cost of Capital," NBER Working Papers 0254, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Charles L. Ballard & Don Fullerton & John B. Shoven & John Whalley, 1985. "A General Equilibrium Model for Tax Policy Evaluation," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number ball85-1, October.
  3. Boskin, Michael J, 1978. "Taxation, Saving, and the Rate of Interest," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(2), pages S3-27, April.
  4. Alan J. Auerbach, 1982. "Taxes, Firm Financial Policy and the Cost of Capital: An Empirical Analysis," NBER Working Papers 0955, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. David F. Bradford, 1979. "The Incidence and Allocation Effects of a Tax on Corporate Distributions," NBER Working Papers 0349, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Don Fullerton & Yolanda K. Henderson, 1986. "A Disaggregate Equilibrium Model of the Tax Distortions Among Assets, Sectors, and Industries," NBER Working Papers 1905, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Poterba, James M. & Summers, Lawrence H., 1983. "Dividend taxes, corporate investment, and `Q'," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(2), pages 135-167, November.
  8. Roger H. Gordon & James R. Hines, Jr. & Lawrence H. Summers, 1987. "Notes on the Tax Treatment of Structures," NBER Chapters, in: The Effects of Taxation on Capital Accumulation, pages 223-258 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Alan J. Auerbach, 1983. "The Dynamic Effects of Tax Law Asymmetries," NBER Working Papers 1152, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Alm, James, 1988. "Uncertain Tax Policies, Individual Behavior, and Welfare," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(1), pages 237-45, March.
  11. Fullerton, Don & Henderson, Yolanda Kodrzycki, 1985. "Long-run Effects of the Accelerated Cost Recovery System," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 67(3), pages 363-72, August.
  12. 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.
  13. Stiglitz, Joseph E., 1982. "Utilitarianism and horizontal equity : The case for random taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 1-33, June.
  14. Chang, F. R. & Wildasin, D. E., 1986. "Randomization of commodity taxes : An expenditure minimization approach," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(3), pages 329-345, December.
  15. Alan J. Auerbach, 1983. "Corporate Taxation in the United States," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 14(2), pages 451-514.
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