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Transition to and Tax Rate Flexibility in a Cash-Flow Type Tax

  • David F. Bradford

The difficulty of making a transition from an income-type to a consumption-type tax is often cited as an obstacle to such a change in policy. The problem is the double taxation of 'old savings' or 'old capital.' A person who has accumulated wealth under an income tax will be hit with an extra tax on the consumption financed by that accumulation with a shift to a consumption tax. Such a transition effect raises issues of equity, political feasibility and efficiency. In the typical implementation of a consumption tax, the same sorts of transition phenomena associated with a shift from an income tax come from any change in the rate of tax. Introduction of a consumption tax is the same as raising the rate of consumption tax from zero to whatever positive rate is envisioned for the new system. Consequently, the problem of transition to a consumption tax generalizes to the problem of changing the rate of consumption tax. In this paper I consider the design of rules that render consumption taxes in the family of business cash-flow taxes immune to the incentive and incidence effects of changes in rate of tax. I show that two relatively simple approaches are available to deal with it: grandfathering the tax rate applicable to a given period's investment or substituting depreciation allowances for the usual expending of investment, coupled with a credit for the equivalent of interest on the undepreciated investment stock. A cost of this approach is its requirement to identify tru depreciation and, in the second case, the real rate of interest.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 6465.

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Date of creation: Mar 1998
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Publication status: published as Transition to and Tax-Rate Flexibility in a Cash-Flow-Type Tax , David F. Bradford. in Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 12 , Poterba. 1998
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6465
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  1. David F. Bradford, 1995. "Consumption Taxes: Some Fundamental Transition Issues," NBER Working Papers 5290, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Alan J. Auerbach & James R. Hines, Jr., 1987. "Anticipated Tax Changes and the Timing of Investment," NBER Chapters, in: Taxes and Capital Formation, pages 85-88 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Hall, Robert E, 1997. "Potential Disruption from the Move to a Consumption Tax," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(2), pages 147-50, May.
  4. David F. Bradford, 1993. "Market Value Vs. Financial Accounting Measures of National Saving," NBER Working Papers 2906, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Zodrow, George R. & McLure, Charles E. Jr., 1988. "Implementing direct consumption taxes in developing countries," Policy Research Working Paper Series 131, The World Bank.
  6. Robert E. Hall, 1996. "The Effects of Tax Reform on Prices and Asset Values," NBER Chapters, in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 10, pages 71-88 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Robin Boadway & Neil Bruce, 1982. "A General Proposition on the Design of a Neutral Business Tax," Working Papers 461, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  8. Howitt, Peter & Sinn, Hans-Werner, 1989. "Gradual Reforms of Capital Income Taxation," Munich Reprints in Economics 19370, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  9. Hall, Robert E, 1971. "The Dynamic Effects of Fiscal Policy in an Economy With Foresight," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 38(114), pages 229-44, April.
  10. Zodrow, George R., 1985. "Optimal tax reform in the presence of adjustment costs," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 211-230, July.
  11. David F. Bradford, 1991. "Market Value versus Financial Accounting Measures of National Saving," NBER Chapters, in: National Saving and Economic Performance, pages 15-48 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. John B. Shoven & Jeremy I. Bulow, 1975. "Inflation Accounting and Nonfinancial Corporate Profits: Physical Assets," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 6(3), pages 557-612.
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