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Mr. Joel Slemrod and Shlomo Yitzhaki

It is argued that taxation causes deadweight losses—from substitution, evasion, and avoidance activities—and direct, administrative and compliance, costs. Some of these social costs tend to be discontinuous and/or nonconvex. Because most models of taxation ignore some components of the social costs of taxation, their conclusions cannot be considered all-encompassing. An alternative approach to policy evaluation is to rely on a marginal efficiency cost of funds rule that can indicate appropriate directions of reforms. The paper discusses the merits, applicability, and limitation of this rule, as well as its relationship to other concepts,

Mr. Reint Gropp

The current system of corporate taxation in the United States treats debt and equity financing of firms differently. Interest payments, unlike dividends, are deducted from the corporate income tax and, therefore, enjoy a tax advantage. Firms with higher corporate tax rates have an incentive to increase leverage. Although most firms face the same statutory tax rate, effective corporate tax rates may vary greatly because of differences across firms in the ability to shield profits from the corporate tax.1 A firm with higher investment tax credits, accelerated depreciation allowances, or tax loss carryforwards faces lower effective corporate tax rates than an identical firm without these nondebl tax shields.

Mr. Charles Y. Mansfield

IN CONSIDERING CRITERIA for a tax system in a developing country the response of tax revenue to changes in income has often been singled out as a vital ingredient.1 This response is measured by the concepts of tax elasticity and tax buoyancy, the former measuring in some sense the automatic response of revenue to income changes (i.e., revenue increase, excluding the effects of discretionary changes), and the latter measuring the total response of tax revenue to changes in income. A high tax elasticity is said to be a particularly desirable attribute, as it allows growth in expenditure, preferably related to development, to be financed by rising tax revenue without the need for politically difficult decisions to raise taxes. However, in fact, major sources of government revenue may have a low elasticity, in which case the authorities must seek additional revenue by introducing discretionary changes. Then, growth in tax revenue may come about through a high buoyancy 2—including growth through discretionary changes—as opposed to the natural growth through elasticity. Using Paraguay as an example, this paper analyzes the growth of tax revenues over the 1962-70 period—an era of conscious tax reform—by examining two major questions: (1) what was the elasticity of the system and its components, and how is the size of the elasticity coefficient explained? and (2) what was the buoyancy of the system relative to its elasticity? With respect to individual taxes, where were the major differences between buoyancy and elasticity found? These latter questions point to the effect of discretionary changes.


DEVELOPMENT POLICY has, until recently, been concerned primarily with stimulating economic growth. In light of the widely accepted view that economic growth was a precondition for a more equal distribution of income, little attention was given to the highly unequal income distribution that prevails in the less developed countries. These inequalities, however, are becoming less and less acceptable politically. Concern with the income distributional aspects of development policies has thus acquired new respectability. As Mr. Robert McNamara, President of the World Bank Group, stated at the Annual Meeting of the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development in 1972: “When the highly privileged are few and the desperately poor are many—and when the gap between them is worsening rather than improving—it is only a question of time before a decisive choice must be made between the political costs of reform and the political risks of rebellion” (McNamara, 1972, p. 26).1 He added that “shifts in the patterns of public expenditure represent one of the most effective techniques a government possesses to improve the conditions of the poor…. Governments can best begin … by initiating surveys on the effects of their current patterns of disbursement…. The Bank will assist in such surveys and, based on them, will help design programs, to be financed by it and others, which will improve the distribution of public services” (McNamara, 1972, p. 28).

International Monetary Fund. External Relations Dept.

Discussing the flat tax always generates heated debate—even about its definition. Proponents claim its simplicity and efficiency can be a key to economic success, while critics argue that it has little effect on economic activity and can be unfair.


The paper first addresses the question of the sustainability of debt growth by examining the behavior of taxation implied by fiscal rules that respect a government’s intertemporal budget constraint. Sustainable debt growth may require the tax burden to rise above some socially acceptable level. In this case, whereas drastic remedies may prove ineffective, a more relevant choice concerns the degree of monetary financing of the deficit (as distinct from monetization of the debt), which affects the dynamics of taxation implied by the constraint. Monetary financing is then introduced into a model by Blanchard, and the effects of monetary financing on the interest rate and capital intensity are examined. Finally, some policy implications are considered.

Mr. Vito Tanzi

Inflation affects individuals and income classes in many ways—as consumers, taxpayers, wage earners, savers, asset holders, lenders, borrowers, and so forth. Because of this multiplicity of influences, it is difficult, and perhaps impossible, to assess the total economic impact of inflation. For this reason, empirical studies have limited themselves to analyzing the impact of inflation on individuals or income classes in their roles as consumers, savers, or wage earners. This partial approach does not answer the question of whether the total impact of inflation is or is not beneficial to individuals in particular income classes, but it does provide interesting information that can be useful for policy purposes. This paper will follow this partial approach and analyze the impact of inflation on individuals in connection with the tax treatment of interest paid or received in the United States.

Mr. Vito Tanzi

It has often been argued that many developing countries, in their pursuit of growth through capital accumulation, may have no choice but to run fiscal deficits in order to finance their development expenditures. The reasons given are: (a) that their tax bases are inadequate to allow a high tax burden; (b) that even when adequate tax bases are available, the countries’ tax administrations are too inefficient to take advantage of them; or (c) that, in any case, the political realities are such that high tax burdens are not possible.1 In the absence of developed capital markets or external borrowing, these fiscal deficits are often financed wholly or partly by central banks (i.e., through money creation). This printing of money brings about increases in the general price level and thus reduces the real value of the monetary unit. This reduction can be seen, as Friedman and Bailey showed many years ago, as a kind of tax on those who are holding money.2

International Monetary Fund. External Relations Dept.

Agrowing number of countries are choosing to give up their monetary independence to join currency unions, establish a currency board, or dollarize. Recent work by Robert Barro and Alberto Alesina of Harvard University has examined what is behind this trend, notably the decision to join a currency union. Both were recently at the IMF Institute to offer in-house seminars. Prakash Loungani talks with Alesina about why fewer currencies may be a healthy development. The accompanying box summarizes Barro’s seminar on how countries can calculate the costs and benefits of joining a currency union.