Purpose – When a small business purchases a capital asset, its cost for tax purposes is spread over the useful life of the asset through the process of depreciation. It has become common in the USA for policy makers to enhance depreciation rules in an effort to increase business investment in a less-costly manner than across-the-board marginal tax rate cuts. Indeed, short-term depreciation policies are often billed by policy makers as a way to save America's small businesses. However, little is known about the actual effects of depreciation policies on small business activity. This paper aims to discuss these issues. Design/methodology/approach – In this initial attempt to test the political claims regarding the importance of depreciation rules, the paper uses a 12-year panel of tax returns for Schedule C sole proprietors to empirically examine whether more generous depreciation policies influence small business activity at the extensive margin. Specifically, the paper estimates a series of multivariate models to explain sole proprietors’ decisions to remain in business as functions of their financial, demographic, and tax situations, including measures of the present discounted value (PDV) of a stream of tax deductions for depreciated capital under various rule structures. Findings – Throughout the analysis, the authors are unable to find evidence that favorable depreciation rules lead to greater rates of entrepreneurial longevity among Schedule C sole proprietors. Originality/value – Discrete choice results suggest that increases in the PDV of tax reductions from depreciation (e.g. depreciating the value earlier in the recovery period) might actually lead to higher probabilities of small business exit, while survival analysis finds no clear influence of depreciation on spells of small business activity.
- Tax policy
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Business and International Management
- Urban Studies
- Strategy and Management