The IMF Working Papers series is designed to make IMF staff research available to a wide audience. Almost 300 Working Papers are released each year, covering a wide range of theoretical and analytical topics, including balance of payments, monetary and fiscal issues, global liquidity, and national and international economic developments.
This paper proposes a signaling model that offers a new perspective on why governments deviate from optimal tax smoothing and delay debt stabilization. In our model, dependable—but not fully credible—governments have an incentive to tighten the fiscal regime when the signaling effect on credit ratings is larger (that is, when a sufficiently large stock of debt has been accumulated). At this point, they may deviate from tax smoothing not to be mimicked by weak governments. The model predicts that primary balances and debt stocks are complementary inputs in the credit rating function as tests on Italian, Irish, Belgian, and Danish data show.