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On the Timeliness of Tax Reform


  • James R. Hines Jr.


This paper analyzes efficient reactions of policy makers to unanticipated tax avoidance. The strategy of many governments is to reform their tax laws and regulations to reduce the effectiveness of elaborate tax avoidance techniques as soon as they are identified. This tax reform process can successfully prevent the widespread use of new tax avoidance strategies, and in that way prevents erosion of the tax base. But it also encourages the rapid development of new tax avoidance techniques by innovators whose competitors are thereby unable to copy their methods -- as a consequence of which, there can be a great premium on being the first to develop and use a new tax avoidance method. An activist reform agenda may therefore divert greater resources into tax avoidance activity, and lead to a faster rate of tax base erosion, than would a less reactive government strategy. Efficient government policy therefore often entails a slow and deliberate pace of tax reform in response to taxpayer innovation.

Suggested Citation

  • James R. Hines Jr., 2002. "On the Timeliness of Tax Reform," NBER Working Papers 8909, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8909
    Note: PE

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. 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 211-216, May.
    2. Levmore, Saul, 1993. "The Case for Retroactive Taxation," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 22(2), pages 265-307, June.
    3. Roger H. Gordon & James R. Hines, Jr. & Lawrence H. Summers, 1987. "Notes on the Tax Treatment of Structures," NBER Chapters,in: The Effects of Taxation on Capital Accumulation, pages 223-258 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Seade, Jesus K, 1980. "On the Effects of Entry," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 48(2), pages 479-489, March.
    5. Kaplow, Louis, 1990. "Optimal taxation with costly enforcement and evasion," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(2), pages 221-236, November.
    6. Dreze, Jean & Stern, Nicholas, 1990. "Policy reform, shadow prices, and market prices," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(1), pages 1-45, June.
    7. Alan J. Auerbach, 1983. "Corporate Taxation in the United States," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 14(2), pages 451-514.
    8. Bhattacharyya, Sugato & Nanda, Vikram, 2000. "Client Discretion, Switching Costs, and Financial Innovation," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 13(4), pages 1101-1127.
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    Cited by:

    1. Slemrod, Joel, 2004. "The Economics of Corporate Tax Selfishness," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 57(4), pages 877-899, December.
    2. Mihir A Desai & Dhammika Dharmapala, 2009. "Corporate Tax Avoidance and Firm Value," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 91(3), pages 537-546, August.
    3. Budryte, Alge, 2005. "Corporate income taxation in Lithuania in the context of the EU," Research in International Business and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 19(2), pages 200-228, June.
    4. Fox, William F. & Luna, LeAnn, 2002. "State Corporate Tax Revenue Trends: Causes and Possible Solutions," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 55(3), pages 491-508, September.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation
    • H25 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Business Taxes and Subsidies

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