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Are Investment Incentives Blunted by Changes in Prices of Capital Goods?

  • Kevin A. Hassett
  • R. Glenn Hubbard

Recent research on business investment decisions suggests that real investment in plant and equipment is quite sensitive to changes in the user cost of capital, pointing to the possibility that long-run changes in tax policy may have a significant impact on an economy's capital stock. Indeed, many countries have at times adopted investment tax incentives to stimulate investment. The prevalence of investment incentives suggests that local policymakers believe that incentives are effective in increasing investment at a reasonable cost in terms of lost revenue for a given increment to investment. In this paper, we explore this issue by estimating the extent to which countries are price-takers in the world market for capital goods. We find that most countries -- even the United States -- likely currently face a highly elastic supply of capital goods, suggesting that the effect of investment incentives on the price of investment goods is small. Hence efforts of long-run changes in investment tax policy are likely to materialize in real investment rather than simply being dissipated in changes in capital-goods prices.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 6676.

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Date of creation: Jun 1999
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Publication status: published as International Finance, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 106-125, 1998.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6676
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  1. Irving B. Kravis & Robert E. Lipsey, 1971. "Price Competitiveness in World Trade," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number krav71-1, October.
  2. Cummins, J.G. & Hassett, K.A. & Hubbard, R.G., 1995. "tax Reforms and Investment: A Cross-Country Comparison," Working Papers 95-28, C.V. Starr Center for Applied Economics, New York University.
  3. 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.
  4. Auerbach, Alan J & Hassett, Kevin A & Oliner, Stephen D, 1994. "Reassessing the Social Returns to Equipment Investment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 109(3), pages 789-802, August.
  5. Officer, Lawrence H., 1986. "The law of one price cannot be rejected: Two tests based on the tradable/nontradable price ratio," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 8(2), pages 159-182.
  6. Jason Cummins & Trevor Harris & Kevin Hassett, 1995. "Accounting Standards, Information Flow, and Firm Investment Behavior," NBER Chapters, in: The Effects of Taxation on Multinational Corporations, pages 181-224 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Irving B. Kravis & Robert E. Lipsey, 1977. "Price Behavior in the Light of Balance of Payments Theories," NBER Working Papers 0181, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Darrel Cohen & Kevin A. Hassett, 1997. "Inflation, taxes, and the durability of capital," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 1997-53, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  9. Martin Feldstein & James R. Hines Jr. & R. Glenn Hubbard, 1995. "The Effects of Taxation on Multinational Corporations," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number feld95-2, October.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. Martin Feldstein & Charles Horioka, 1979. "Domestic Savings and International Capital Flows," NBER Working Papers 0310, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Kevin A. Hassett & R. Glenn Hubbard, 1996. "Tax Policy and Investment," NBER Working Papers 5683, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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