NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Tax Multipliers: Pitfalls in Measurement and Identification

Daniel Riera-Crichton, Carlos A. Vegh, Guillermo Vuletin

NBER Working Paper No. 18497
Issued in October 2012
NBER Program(s):   IFM

We contribute to the literature on tax multipliers by analyzing the pitfalls in identification and measurement of tax shocks. Our main focus is on disentangling the discussion regarding the identification of exogenous tax policy shocks (i.e., changes in tax policy that are not the result of policymakers responding to output fluctuations) from the discussion related to the measurement of tax policy (i.e., finding a tax policy variable under the direct control of the policymaker). For this purpose, we build a novel value-added tax rate dataset and the corresponding cyclically-adjusted revenue measure at a quarterly frequency for 14 industrial countries for the period 1980-2009. We also provide complementary evidence using Romer and Romer (2010) and Barro and Redlick (2011) data for the United States. On the identification front, our findings favor the use of narratives à la Romer and Romer (2010) to identify exogenous fiscal shocks as opposed to the identification via SVAR. On the (much less explored) measurement front, our results strongly support the use of tax rates as a true measure of the tax policy instrument as opposed to widely-used, revenue-based measures, such as cyclically-adjusted revenues.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w18497

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