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Tax Incentives and Business Investment: New Evidence from Mexico

Ramirez Verdugo, Arturo (2005): Tax Incentives and Business Investment: New Evidence from Mexico.

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Abstract

This paper provides new evidence on the response of business investment to tax incentives. I use the variation provided by recent reforms to the Mexican corporate tax system, including the elimination and reintroduction of accelerated depreciation allowances applicable to investment undertaken outside the three main Mexican metropolitan areas. I show that investment is very sensitive to changes in tax variables and interest rates, with an estimated elasticity of investment with respect to the user cost around -2.0. The results are robust to different specifications and instrumental variables approaches. The large elasticity is shown to be the result of the large cross sectional variation in the user cost of capital and also a product of the small open economy nature of the Mexican economy. In particular, large investment responses of plants owned by multinational firms and a elasticity of imported assets considerably larger than that of domestically purchased goods. Furthermore, the use of panel data at the establishment level allows me to identify the discrete nature of investment decisions and to show that the capital accumulation pattern is consistent with nonconvex adjustment costs and irreversibilities, similar to those found for the US. Thus, the large elasticity compared to US estimates cannot be attributed to differences in adjustment costs. Finally, I provide evidence that the large investment response is not an artifact of misreporting or tax evasion since the elasticity of investment in other assets such as transportation equipment and land, which is harder to misreport, is also high.

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