Effects of Income Tax Changes on Economic Growth

16 Pages Posted: 12 Sep 2014  

William G. Gale

Brookings Institution

Andrew A. Samwick

Dartmouth College - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: September 9, 2014

Abstract

This paper examines how changes to the individual income tax affect long-term economic growth. The structure and financing of a tax change are critical to achieving economic growth. Tax rate cuts may encourage individuals to work, save, and invest, but if the tax cuts are not financed by immediate spending cuts they will likely also result in an increased federal budget deficit, which in the long-term will reduce national saving and raise interest rates. The net impact on growth is uncertain, but many estimates suggest it is either small or negative. Base-broadening measures can eliminate the effect of tax rate cuts on budget deficits, but at the same time they also reduce the impact on labor supply, saving, and investment and thus reduce the direct impact on growth. However, they also reallocate resources across sectors toward their highest-value economic use, resulting in increased efficiency and potentially raising the overall size of the economy. The results suggest that not all tax changes will have the same impact on growth. Reforms that improve incentives, reduce existing subsidies, avoid windfall gains, and avoid deficit financing will have more auspicious effects on the long-term size of the economy, but may also create trade-offs between equity and efficiency.

Keywords: income tax, economic growth

JEL Classification: H24, O4

Suggested Citation

Gale, William G. and Samwick, Andrew A., Effects of Income Tax Changes on Economic Growth (September 9, 2014). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2494468 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2494468

William G. Gale (Contact Author)

Brookings Institution ( email )

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Washington, DC 20036
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Andrew A. Samwick

Dartmouth College - Department of Economics ( email )

Hanover, NH 03755
United States
603-646-2893 (Phone)
603-646-2122 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.dartmouth.edu/~samwick

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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