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Tax Base Variability and Procyclical Fiscal Policy

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  • Ernesto Talvi
  • Carlos A. Vegh

Abstract

Based on a sample of 56 countries, we find that while fiscal policy in the G-7 countries appears to be broadly consistent with Barro's tax smoothing proposition, in developing countries government spending and taxes are highly procyclical (i.e., government spending rises and taxes fall during expansions, while the reverse is true in recessions). To explain this puzzle, we develop an optimal fiscal policy model in which running budget surpluses is costly because they create pressures to increase public spending. Given this distortion, a government that faces large (and perfectly anticipated) fluctuations in the tax base will find it optimal to run a procyclical fiscal policy. We argue that the differences in fiscal policy between the G-7 countries and developing countries can be traced back to the fact that the tax base is much more volatile in developing countries than in the G-7 countries.

Suggested Citation

  • Ernesto Talvi & Carlos A. Vegh, 2000. "Tax Base Variability and Procyclical Fiscal Policy," NBER Working Papers 7499, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7499
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    JEL classification:

    • F41 - International Economics - - Macroeconomic Aspects of International Trade and Finance - - - Open Economy Macroeconomics
    • H30 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - General

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