How do taxes affect investment and productivity?

An industry-level analysis of OECD countries

 

Laura Vartia

 

OECD Economics Department WP 656 (2008)

 

This paper analyses how different tax policies can affect investment and productivity. To address this question the paper uses industry-level data from a set of OECD countries and examines whether different industries are affected differently by taxation. Investment is shown to respond negatively to an increase in the corporate tax rate and a decrease in capital depreciation allowances through changes in the user cost of capital. The analysis of potential links between taxes and productivity tests the hypothesis that taxes affect productivity through different channels and that due to some salient industry characteristics some industries are inherently more affected than others by certain taxes. The paper finds evidence that corporate and top personal income taxes have a negative effect on productivity. In contrast, tax incentives for research and development (R&D) are found to have a positive effect on productivity. These effects are stronger in those industries that are inherently more profitable, have more entrepreneurial activity and are more R&D intensive, respectively.