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Series:Working Papers  Bank:Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland 

Working Paper
The Effects of Price Endings on Price Rigidity: Evidence from VAT Changes
We document a causal role for price endings in generating micro and macro price rigidity. Based on micro price data underlying the consumer price index in Israel, we document that most stores have a favored price ending?a final digit, usually a zero or nine, used by a majority of prices in that store?and that these favored price endings are utilized extensively. Using changes to the VAT rate as exogenous cost shocks that affect prices regardless of ending, we find that the frequency of price adjustment for nonfavored endings increases by twice as much as the frequency of adjustment for favored endings in months when the VAT rate changes. In the aggregate, sluggish pass-through of VAT rate changes is due to favored endings; changes in the VAT rate are passed through fully and immediately to nonfavored endings.
AUTHORS: Knotek, Edward S.; Sayag, Doron; Snir, Avichai
DATE: 2019-11-12

Working Paper
On the Optimality of Differential Asset Taxation
How should a utilitarian government balance redistributive concerns with the need to provide incentives for business creation and investment? Should they tax business profits, the (risk-free) savings of owners, or some combination of both? To address this question, this paper presents a model in which the desirability of differential asset taxation emerges endogenously from the presence of agency frictions. I consider an environment in which entrepreneurs hire workers and rent capital to produce output subject to privately observed shocks and have the ability to both divert capital to private consumption and abscond with a fraction of assets. To provide incentives to invest, the wealth of an agent must depend on the performance of his/her firm, leading to ex-post inequality in all efficient allocations. I show that the efficient stationary distribution of wealth exhibits a thick right (Pareto) tail, with the degree of inequality monotonically increasing in the number of workers per entrepreneur. The efficient allocation is then implemented in a general equilibrium model using history-independent linear taxes on risk-free savings and (reported) business profits. The tax on entrepreneurs? savings may be positive or negative, while the tax on business profits depends solely upon the degree of private information and is independent of all technological and preference parameters.
AUTHORS: Phelan, Tom
DATE: 2019-08-29

Working Paper
The Optimal Taxation of Business Owners
Business owners in the United States are disproportionately represented among the very wealthy and are exposed to substantial idiosyncratic risk. Further, recent evidence indicates business income primarily reflects returns to the human (rather than financial) capital of the owner. Motivated by these facts, this paper characterizes the optimal taxation of income and wealth in an environment where business income depends jointly on innate ability, luck, and the accumulated past effort exerted by the owner. I show that in (constrained) efficient allocations, more productive entrepreneurs typically bear more risk and that the associated stationary distributions of income, wealth, and firm size exhibit the thick right (Pareto) tails observed in the data. Finally, when owners may save in a risk-free bond and trade shares of their business, I show that the optimal linear taxes in this environment call for double taxation of firm profits, at both the firm and the personal income level, and for a tax/subsidy on wealth that may assume either sign.
AUTHORS: Phelan, Tom
DATE: 2019-11-19

Working Paper
Multiperiod Loans, Occasionally Binding Constraints, and Monetary Policy: A Quantitative Evaluation
We study the implications of multiperiod mortgage loans for monetary policy, considering several realistic modifications?fixed interest rate contracts, a lower bound constraint on newly granted loans, and the possibility of the collateral constraint to become slack?to an otherwise standard DSGE model with housing and financial intermediaries. We estimate the model in its nonlinear form and argue that all these features are important to understand the evolution of mortgage debt during the recent US housing market boom and bust. We show how the nonlinearities associated with the two constraints make the transmission of monetary policy dependent on the housing cycle, with weaker effects observed when house prices are high or start falling sharply. We also find that higher average loan duration makes monetary policy less effective and may lead to asymmetric responses to positive and negative monetary shocks.
AUTHORS: Bluwstein, Kristina; Brzoza-Brzezina, Michal; Gelain, Paolo; Kolasa, Marcin
DATE: 2019-05-03

Working Paper
A Theory of Intrinsic Inflation Persistence
We propose a novel theory of intrinsic inflation persistence by introducing trend inflation and variable elasticity of demand in a model with staggered price and wage setting. Under nonzero trend inflation, the variable elasticity generates intrinsic persistence in inflation through a measure of price dispersion stemming from staggered price setting. It also introduces intrinsic persistence in wage inflation under staggered wage setting, which affects price inflation. With the theory we show that inflation exhibits a persistent, hump-shaped response to a monetary policy shock. We also show that a credible disinflation leads to a gradual decline in inflation and a fall in output, and lower trend inflation reduces inflation persistence, as observed around the time of the Volcker disinflation.
AUTHORS: Van Zandweghe, Willem; Kurozumi, Takushi
DATE: 2019-08-29

Working Paper
The Politics of Flat Taxes
We study the political determination of flat tax systems using a workhorse macroeconomic model of inequality. There is significant variation in preferred tax policy across the wealth and income distribution. The majority voting outcome features (i) zero labor income taxation, (ii) simultaneous use of capital income and consumption taxation, and (iii) essentially zero transfers. This policy is supported by a coalition of low- and middle-wealth households. Zero labor income taxation is supported by households with below average wealth, while the middle-wealth households prefer to keep the transfer (and thus other tax rates) low. We also show that the outcome is sensitive to assumptions about the voting power of household groups, the degree of wealth and income mobility, and the forward-looking nature of votes.
AUTHORS: Dolmas, James; Young, Eric R.; Carroll, Daniel R.
DATE: 2019-09-25

Working Paper
Monetary Policy and Macroeconomic Stability Revisited
A large literature has established that the Fed? change from a passive to an active policy response to inflation led to US macroeconomic stability after the Great Inflation of the 1970s. This paper revisits the literature?s view by estimating a generalized New Keynesian model using a full-information Bayesian method that allows for equilibrium indeterminacy and adopts a sequential Monte Carlo algorithm. The model empirically outperforms canonical New Keynesian models that confirm the literature?s view. Our estimated model shows an active policy response to inflation even during the Great Inflation. More importantly, a more active policy response to inflation alone does not suffice for explaining the US macroeconomic stability, unless it is accompanied by a change in either trend inflation or policy responses to the output gap and output growth. This extends the literature by emphasizing the importance of the changes in other aspects of monetary policy in addition to its response to inflation.
AUTHORS: Kurozumi, Takushi; Van Zandweghe, Willem; Hirose, Yasuo
DATE: 2019-06-27

Working Paper
The Politics of Flat Taxes
We study the determination of flat tax systems using a workhorse macroeconomic model of inequality. Our first result is that, despite the multidimensional policy space, equilibrium policies are typically unique (up to a fine grid numerical approximation). The majority voting outcome features (i) zero labor income taxation, (ii) simultaneous use of capital income and consumption taxation, and (iii) generally low transfers. We discuss the role of three factors?the initial heterogeneity in sources of income, the mobility of income and wealth, and the forward-looking aspect of voting?in determining the equilibrium mix of taxes.
AUTHORS: Carroll, Daniel R.; Young, Eric R.; Dolmas, James
DATE: 2017-09-06

Working Paper
Firms, Skills, and Wage Inequality
We present a model with search frictions and heterogeneous agents that allows us to decompose the overall increase in US wage inequality in the last 30 years into its within- and between-firm and skill components. We calibrate the model to evaluate how much of the overall rise in wage inequality and its components is explained by different channels. Output distribution per firm-skill pair more than accounts for the observed increase over this period. Parametric identification implies that the worker-specific component is responsible for 85 percent of this, compared to 15 percent that is attributable to firm-level productivity shifts.
AUTHORS: Tasci, Murat; Pinheiro, Roberto
DATE: 2019-04-19

Working Paper
A New Look at Historical Monetary Policy and the Great Inflation through the Lens of a Persistence-Dependent Policy Rule
The origins of the Great Inflation, a central 20th century U.S. macroeconomic event, remain contested. Prominent explanations are poor forecasts or deficient activity gap estimates. An alternative view: the FOMC was unwilling to fight inflation, perhaps due to political pressures. Our findings, based on a novel approach, support the latter view. New econometric tools allow us to credibly identify the particular activity gap, if any, in use. Persistence-dependent unemployment (gap) responses in the 1970s were essentially the same pre- and post-Volcker. Conversely, FOMC behavior vis--vis inflation?also persistence-dependent?changed markedly starting with Volcker, consistent with (though not proving) the political pressures view.
AUTHORS: Tsang, Kwok Ping; Ashley, Richard; Verbrugge, Randal
DATE: 2019-07-18




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