NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Tax Loss Carryforwards and Corporate Tax Incentives

Alan J. Auerbach, James M. Poterba

NBER Working Paper No. 1863
Issued in March 1986
NBER Program(s):   PE

This paper investigates the extent to which loss-offset constraints affect corporate tax incentives. Using data gathered from corporate annual reports, we estimate that in 1984 fifteen percent of the firms in the nonfinancial corporate sector had tax loss carryforwards. When weighted by their market value, however, these firms account for less than three percent of this sector, suggesting that loss carryforwards are concentrated among small firms and affect relatively few large corporations. For those firms with loss carryforwards, however, the incentive effects of the corporate income tax may differ significantly from those facing taxable firms. We demonstrate this by calculating the effective tax rates on equipment and structures for both types of firms. Our results suggest that firms which are currently taxable have a substantially greater incentive for equipment investment than firms with loss carryforwards, but that loss carryforwards have a relatively smaller effect on the tax incentive for investing in structures. Overall, firms with loss carryforwards receive a smaller investment stimulus than taxable firms.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w1863

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