Economic Efficiency in Recent Tax Reform History: Policy Reversals or Consistent Improvements?
25 Pages Posted: 12 Apr 2004 Last revised: 8 Aug 2010
Date Written: May 1988
The Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 reduced personal marginal tax rates and provided significant business tax breaks. Subsequent changes through 1985 cut back on business allowances. The Tax Reform Act of 1986 reduced marginal rates again, but added significantly to business taxes. Was there any unifying theme to these tax changes, or do they represent frequent changes in course for tax policy? This paper uses a general equilibrium model capable of second- best analysis to investigate the net effects on efficiency of each of these changes in capital income taxation. Under the new view that dividend taxes are unimportant investment disincentives, there is no set of other parameters in the model for which these changes generate improvements in efficiency. Under the old view that dividend taxes are important, however, these changes all increase efficiency for a wide range of values for other parameters in the model.
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