Can Corporate Income Tax Cuts Stimulate Innovation?

Julian Atanassov and Xiaoding Liu

We hypothesize that corporate income taxes distort firms’ incentives to innovate by reducing their pledgeable income. Using a differences-in-differences methodology, we document that large corporate income tax cuts boost corporate innovation. We find a similar but opposite effect for tax increases. Most of the change in innovation occurs two or more years after the tax change, and there’s no effect before the tax change. Exploring the mechanisms, we show that tax cuts have a stronger impact on innovation for firms with weaker governance, greater financial constraints, fewer tangible assets, smaller patent stock, and a greater degree of tax avoidance.

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