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R&D Tax Policy During the Eighties: Success or Failure?


  • Bronwyn Hall


R&D Tax policy in the United States during the nineteen-eighties is evaluated. with particular emphasis placed on quantifying the impact of the R&D tax credit on the R&D investment of manufacturing firms. Using publicly available data on R&D spending at the firm level, I estimate an average price elasticity for R&D spending which is in the neighborhood of unity in the short run. Although the effective credit rate is small (less than five percent until 1990), this relatively strong price response means that the amount of additional R&D spending thus induced was greater than the cost in foregone tax revenue. The recent evolution of features of the U.S. corporate tax system which affect R&D is also reviewed and my results are compared with those of previous researchers. The conclusion is that R&D tax credit seems to have had the intended effect, although it took several years for firms to fully adjust. I also argue that although high correlation over time of R&D spending at the firm level makes it difficult to estimate long run effects precisely, the same high correlation makes it probable that these effects are large.

Suggested Citation

  • Bronwyn Hall, 1992. "R&D Tax Policy During the Eighties: Success or Failure?," NBER Working Papers 4240, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:4240
    Note: PE PR

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Lach, Saul & Schankerman, Mark, 1989. "Dynamics of R&D and Investment in the Scientific Sector," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(4), pages 880-904, August.
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    9. Bronwyn H. Hall., 1993. "The Value of Intangible Corporate Assets: An Empirical Study of the Components of Tobin's Q," Economics Working Papers 93-207, University of California at Berkeley.
    10. Alan J. Auerbach & James M. Poterba, 1987. "Tax Loss Carryforwards and Corporate Tax Incentives," NBER Chapters,in: The Effects of Taxation on Capital Accumulation, pages 305-342 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Hall, Bronwyn H. & Hayashi, Fumio, 1989. "Research and Development as an Investment," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt8br8d266, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
    12. Bronwyn H. Hall & Zvi Griliches & Jerry A. Hausman, 1984. "Patents and R&D: Is There A Lag?," NBER Working Papers 1454, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Mansfield, Edwin, 1986. "The R&D Tax Credit and Other Technology Policy Issues," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(2), pages 190-194, May.
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    15. Altshuler, Rosanne, 1988. "A Dynamic Analysis of the Research and Experimentation Credit," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 41(4), pages 453-466, December.
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    17. Ariel Pakes & Mark Schankerman, 1984. "The Rate of Obsolescence of Patents, Research Gestation Lags, and the Private Rate of Return to Research Resources," NBER Chapters,in: R&D, Patents, and Productivity, pages 73-88 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Hernandez, Gustavo Adolfo & Soto, Carolina & Prada, Sergio & Ramirez, Juan Mauricio, 2000. "Exenciones tributarias: Costo fiscal y análisis de incidencia
      [Tax exemptions: fiscal cost and incidence analysis]
      ," MPRA Paper 14546, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. repec:eee:riibaf:v:42:y:2017:i:c:p:1336-1342 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Mamuneas, Theofanis P., 1999. "Spillovers from publicly financed R&D capital in high-tech industries," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 17(2), pages 215-239, February.
    4. Dominique Guellec & Bruno Van Pottelsberghe De La Potterie, 2003. "The impact of public R&D expenditure on business R&D," Economics of Innovation and New Technology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 12(3), pages 225-243.
    5. Dominique Guellec & Isabelle Kabla, 1994. "Le brevet : un instrument d'appropriation des innovations technologiques," Économie et Statistique, Programme National Persée, vol. 275(1), pages 83-94.
    6. Lokshin, Boris & Mohnen, Pierre, 2007. "Measuring the Effectiveness of R&D Tax Credits in the Netherlands," MERIT Working Papers 025, United Nations University - Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT).
    7. Ladron-de-Guevara, Antonio & Ortigueira, Salvador & Santos, Manuel S., 1997. "Equilibrium dynamics in two-sector models of endogenous growth," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 21(1), pages 115-143, January.
    8. Mamuneas, Theofanis P. & Ishaq Nadiri, M., 1996. "Public R&D policies and cost behavior of the US manufacturing industries," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 63(1), pages 57-81, December.
    9. C.K. Folkertsma, 2000. "Liquidity Effects and Welfare Costs of Inflation in an EndogenousGrowth Model," DNB Staff Reports (discontinued) 54, Netherlands Central Bank.
    10. Jorge Niosi, 2010. "Building National and Regional Innovation Systems," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 14006.
    11. Liu, Runjuan & Rosell, Carlos, 2013. "Import competition, multi-product firms, and basic innovation," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(2), pages 220-234.
    12. Estelle P. Dauchy, 2013. "The Efficiency Cost of Asset Taxation in the U.S. after Accounting for Intangible Assets," Working Papers w0199, Center for Economic and Financial Research (CEFIR).
    13. Gernot Hutschenreiter, 2002. "Fiscal Incentives for Research and Development," WIFO Monatsberichte (monthly reports), WIFO, vol. 75(2), pages 121-131, February.
    14. Russell Thomson, 2013. "The Effectiveness of R&D Tax Credits: Cross-Industry Evidence," Melbourne Institute Working Paper Series wp2013n18, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, The University of Melbourne.
    15. D Kaplan, 2001. "Rethinking Government Support For Business Sector R&D In South Africa: The Case For Tax Incentives," South African Journal of Economics, Economic Society of South Africa, vol. 69(1), pages 72-92, March.

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