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Investment with Uncertain Tax Policy: Does Random Tax Policy Discourage Investment?

  • Kevin Hassett
  • Gilbert E. Metcalf

In models with irreversible investment, increasing uncertainty about prices has been shown to increase the required rate of return (hurdle rate) and delay investment (e.g., Pindyck, 1988). One serious form of uncertainty faced by firms, a form that policy makers could conceivably control, is tax uncertainty. In this paper, we show that it does not follow from past work that tax policy uncertainty increases the expected hurdle price ratio and delays investment. This is because tax uncertainty has an unusual form that distinguishes it from price uncertainty: tax rates tend to remain constant for many years, and then change in large jumps. When tax policy follows a jump process, firms' expectations of the likelihood of the jump occurring have important effects on investment. Indeed, as we show below, while price uncertainty increases the hurdle rate and slows down investment, tax uncertainty has the opposite effect.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 4780.

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Date of creation: Jun 1994
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Publication status: published as Economic Journal, Vol. 109, no. 457 (July 1999): 372-393.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:4780
Note: PE
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  1. Jason G. Cummins & Kevin A. Hassett & R. Glenn Hubbard, 1994. "A Reconsideration of Investment Behavior Using Tax Reforms as Natural Experiments," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 25(2), pages 1-74.
  2. Pindyck, Robert S, 1993. "A Note on Competitive Investment under Uncertainty," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(1), pages 273-77, March.
  3. Gilbert E. Metcalf & Kevin A. Hassett, 1995. "Investment Under Alternative Return Assumptions: Comparing Random Walks and Mean Reversion," NBER Technical Working Papers 0175, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Abel, Andrew B, 1983. "Optimal Investment under Uncertainty," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(1), pages 228-33, March.
  5. Ricardo J. Caballero & Robert S. Pindyck, 1992. "Uncertainty, Investment, and Industry Evolution," NBER Working Papers 4160, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Auerbach, Alan J & Hines, James R, Jr, 1988. "Investment Tax Incentives and Frequent Tax Reforms," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(2), pages 211-16, May.
  7. Abel, Andrew B, 1985. "A Stochastic Model of Investment, Marginal q and the Market Value of the Firm," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 26(2), pages 305-22, June.
  8. Caballero, Ricardo J., 1999. "Aggregate investment," Handbook of Macroeconomics, in: J. B. Taylor & M. Woodford (ed.), Handbook of Macroeconomics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 12, pages 813-862 Elsevier.
  9. Bizer, David S & Judd, Kenneth L, 1989. "Taxation and Uncertainty," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(2), pages 331-36, May.
  10. Pindyck, Robert S, 1988. "Irreversible Investment, Capacity Choice, and the Value of the Firm," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(5), pages 969-85, December.
  11. Jack, William & Viard, Alan D., 1996. "Production efficiency and the design of temporary investment incentives," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(1), pages 87-106, July.
  12. Poterba, J.M., 1989. "Dividends, Capital Gains And The Corporate Veil: Evidence From Britain, Canada And The United States," Working Papers 3, John Deutsch Institute for the Study of Economic Policy.
  13. Koenker, Roger & Bassett, Gilbert, Jr, 1982. "Robust Tests for Heteroscedasticity Based on Regression Quantiles," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(1), pages 43-61, January.
  14. B. Douglas Bernheim & John B. Shoven, 1991. "National Saving and Economic Performance," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number bern91-2, December.
  15. Koenker, Roger W & Bassett, Gilbert, Jr, 1978. "Regression Quantiles," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 46(1), pages 33-50, January.
  16. Ricardo J. Caballero & Eduardo M. R. A. Engel & John C. Haltiwanger, 1995. "Plant-Level Adjustment and Aggregate Investment Dynamics," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 26(2), pages 1-54.
  17. Hartman, Richard, 1972. "The effects of price and cost uncertainty on investment," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 5(2), pages 258-266, October.
  18. Lucas, Robert Jr, 1976. "Econometric policy evaluation: A critique," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 19-46, January.
  19. Dixit, Avinash, 1993. "Choosing among alternative discrete investment projects under uncertainty," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 41(3), pages 265-268.
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