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The Spending and Consumption Response to A VAT Rate Increase

David Cashin and Takashi Unayama ()

National Tax Journal, 2021, vol. 74, issue 2, 313 - 346

Abstract: This study estimates the effect of an increase in Japan’s value-added tax (VAT) rate on the timing of household expenditures and consumption, which do not necessarily coincide. The empirical analysis finds that spending on a wide range of durables and storables surged in the months prior to the tax rate increase, fell sharply upon implementation, but returned to their previous long-run levels within a few months. Nonstorable, nondurable expenditures increased slightly in the month prior to the tax rate increase but were otherwise unresponsive. A dynamic structural model of household consumption reveals that the observed spending responses were driven by stockpiling behavior, the insensitivity of durable and nondurable consumption to the tax rate increase, and strong complementarities between durables and nondurables. By mapping durable and storable expenditures into consumption, the model allows for a considerably more precise estimate of the intertemporal elasticity of substitution in consumption than the standard method, which focuses on nondurable spending only. The results, external validity checks, and marginal excess burden calculation suggest that anticipated changes in VAT rates have a large, though highly transitory, impact on household spending that generates miniscule efficiency costs.

Date: 2021
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