We examine electoral cycles in tax reforms using monthly data over the period of 1990-2018 for 22 advanced economies and emerging markets. We show that governments tend to avoid announcing tax reforms during the months running up to elections. In addition, they become more likely to announce those reforms in the first few months following elections, indicating that “political capital” plays a role in the timing of reforms. These patterns are broad-based regarding the changes in tax base and rate, and for various types of taxes. We also find that the pre-election decrease in the likelihood of tax reform announcements is stronger in emerging markets, and weaker in the countries with relatively better institutional quality. Finally, our results indicate that neither fiscal rules nor IMF programs appear to have differential effects on electoral cycles in tax reforms.
This paper discusses how to enhance automatic stabilizers without increasing the size of government. We distinguish between permanent changes in the parameters of the tax and expenditure system (e.g., changes in tax progressivity) that will enhance the traditional automatic stabilizer, and temporary changes triggered by certain economic developments (e.g., tax measures targeted at credit and liquidity constrained households, triggered during a severe downturn). We argue that, with some exceptions, the latter are preferable as they can be implemented with lower disruptions in other fiscal policy goals (e.g., economic efficiency). Moreover, countries should also avoid introducing procyclicality as a result of fiscal rules, as these would offset the effect of existing automatic stabilizers.