, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 51-81

Corporate taxation and the efficiency gains of the 1986 Tax Reform Act

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Summary

The 1986 Tax Reform Act (TRA) had little effect on the overall U. S. effective capital income tax rate. However, TRA significantly reduced differences in effective taxation of corporate and noncorporate capital for a number of U. S. industries. The Mutual Production Model developed in Gravelle and Kotlikoff (1989) can be used to study the efficiency gains from the reduction in corporate tax wedges within industries. Unlike the Harberger Model, the Mutual Production Model permits both corporate and noncorporate firms to produce the same goods and, therefore, to coexist within a given industry.

This paper develops an 11-industry-55-year dynamic life cycle version of the Mutual Production Model. We use this model to study the steady-state efficiency gains associated with the new law. While we do not simulate the economy's transition path, our steady-state welfare changes are those that arise from compensating transitional generations for the first-order redistribution of income associated with the Tax Reform.

We find that the 1986 Tax Reform law reduces excess burden by 85 percent of our model's economy's present value of consumption. This efficiency gain reflects the Tax Reform's reduction in corporate-noncorporate tax wedges, particularly in those industries with significant noncorporate production. Measured as a flow the 1988 estimated efficiency gain from the Tax Reform Act is $31 billion.

The opinions expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress, Boston University, or The National Bureau of Economic Research. We are particularly grateful to Alan Auerbach, Oldrich Kyn, and an anonymous referee for very extensive and critical comments. We also thank Don Fullerton, Yolanda Henderson, Tom Woodward, and a referee for their very helpful suggestions.