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What about letting companies turn depreciation (ie investments) into costs right away? That should spur investment.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Wed Jan 26th, 2011 at 08:38:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What do you mean? "marking to second-hand market" the productive assets of a firm?

And, depreciation is an investment?

If you front-load depreciation, wouldn't that risk making firms balance-sheet insolvent?

Keynesianism is intellectually hard, as evidenced by the inability of many trained economists to get it - Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 26th, 2011 at 09:40:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What I'm saying is that today when you invest in something, like say a ship, you can depreciate it over say 20 years. This means that you can count 1/20th of the cost of the ship as a cost per year, for the coming 20 years. This reduces your booked profits and hence lowers your tax.

By turning all investments into costs, immediately (ie you can reduce your booked profits with the entire cost of the ship, right now) investments will be spurred, as every euro of investments will mean roughly 25 cents less in tax (given a corporate tax of 25 %). And money today is far more valuable than the same amount of money as an income stream spread over 20 years.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Wed Jan 26th, 2011 at 10:34:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What you're proposing would be to book the tax savings in the first year, and nothing for the following 19 years.

But also, depreciation can only be booked as a cost because it also impairs the asset. You cannot claim a 100% loss for tax purposes and still claim your asset is worth 100%, now can you?

The point of depreciation is that the value of the future income from the investment is reduced as time passes because there's less useful life left on the asset, as well as the asset being damaged with use. But the reason that's booked for tax purposes is that it's also booked for firm valuation purposes.

Money today being more valuable than money tomorrow is probably implicit in the depreciation as well. Or it could be, for a second-order effect.

Keynesianism is intellectually hard, as evidenced by the inability of many trained economists to get it - Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 26th, 2011 at 10:43:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Migeru:
But the reason that's booked for tax purposes is that it's also booked for firm valuation purposes.

Starvid is seeing it from the income statement side, where the investment would be booked as 100% cost in year 1 (therefore lower profit => less tax). While of course there's the balance sheet to be considered: if you book 100% in year 1, then the asset has no value on year 2's balance sheet. Which would be a false image of the company's value. (I know that's what you're saying, I'm just putting it another way).

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Jan 26th, 2011 at 11:03:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Gah, this hinges on the difference between a cash flow statement and an income statement. Depreciation is a cost but not a cash outlay...

Keynesianism is intellectually hard, as evidenced by the inability of many trained economists to get it - Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 26th, 2011 at 11:10:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Don't follow you on cash flow. Annual taxation is based on (roughly speaking) income minus costs ie the income statement.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Jan 26th, 2011 at 11:31:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There ARE considerations other than the tax benefit, though one would hardly know it from the discourse in the business sections of the popular press. Double entry what?

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Jan 27th, 2011 at 03:30:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sure you would get a pretty funny situation, if you took all the tax credit in year one but also wiped out the entire book value of the asset in year 2! :D

What I'm proposing is not that though: the balance sheet value of the asset should still be depreciated by 5 % per year, but the entire tax credit should be allowed to be claimed year 1. I think this might very well be the most efficient tax cut ever, bang-for-the-buck-wise.

Now, please rip it to pieces. :)

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Thu Jan 27th, 2011 at 08:03:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There's no good reason to not write down the asset at the same time you depreciate it for tax purposes. You're never going to become insolvent due to tax-motivated write-downs, because your tax incentive stops when your income for the fiscal year hits zero. It can't go negative due to accelerated depreciation, since you don't get money back in taxes when you're bleeding money.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Jan 27th, 2011 at 11:07:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This may be purely national, but in France you can certainly count a deficit in Year N, by either getting a refund on tax paid in Year N-1, (carryback), or by carrying forward to reduce next year's (or over several) taxable profit.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Jan 28th, 2011 at 02:16:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The reason is to if you do write if off all at once, you're going to have a balance sheet which doesn't give a fair view of your actual assets. That €40 million tanker is still worth €40 million in year 2, or at least €38 million. Creating hidden values in balance sheets doesn't help anyone.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Fri Jan 28th, 2011 at 06:36:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You're always going to have a balance sheet that doesn't give a fair view of your assets - most fixed assets last longer than you depreciate them over (that's why coal looks so cheap; all the plants are fully depreciated, but remain functional).

And I disagree on hidden assets being of no help. They serve to stabilise balance sheets against cyclical variations. And, for the most part, it is not unreasonable to mark assets up during a downturn and depreciate them faster during an upturn. Because the conventional wisdom during an upturn tends to overvalue assets, so marking assets up during the nadir of the business cycle means you're more likely to get a realistic valuation, while depreciating assets faster during the upturn will make it less likely that you overshoot the long-term value of your firm.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Jan 28th, 2011 at 11:23:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You're always going to have a balance sheet that doesn't give a fair view of your assets

This is no reason to make balance sheets less transparent than they need be. If so, we could just abolish balance sheets outright.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Sat Jan 29th, 2011 at 03:29:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This could be done as a political choice, certainly. I'm not sure it would be hugely successful as stimulus, because I doubt if companies make major investment decisions (we were discussing 20-year depreciation) for tax reasons. It might trip a few switches, though.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Jan 28th, 2011 at 02:11:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This wholoe discussion is nothing new. many Governments, including the UK have allowed for accelerated tax depreciation, or 100% tax write off in the year of investment, and this does not have to be reflected in the asset register. Instead, you can record a liability for tax refund repayment in the balance sheet, which is amortised, cash less, over the economic life of the investment.

The whole point of this kind of incentive is to make it attractive within a certain time window to make an investment, threby bringing investment forward.

having reclaimed 100 % tax credit on the investment in year one, you are unable in subsequent years to use the accounting depreciation on that specific asset to offset corporate tax, so you future marginal tax rate increases.

by senilebiker on Sat Jan 29th, 2011 at 07:48:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It seems this is a pretty ordinary policy in Europe. And here I thought I was onto something new. :P

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Sat Jan 29th, 2011 at 03:31:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is in fact (I now find) practised in France re targeted investments, most recently photo-voltaic.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Jan 31st, 2011 at 09:58:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That is of debatable value as a form of stimulus, since firms invest in the expectation of demand. No expectation of demand, no investment, no matter how many tax breaks you give them.

Now, I quite like accelerated depreciation for another reason. It artificially reduces the size of people's balance sheets. And since crises occur when people overestimate their balance sheets...

Incidentally, the Danish tax code already permits depreciation times that are rather on the short end (around five years) for most goods except electronics.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Jan 26th, 2011 at 02:32:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Depreciating computers in three years makes sense when we are dealing with Intel and Microsoft.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Jan 27th, 2011 at 03:31:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Or with Moore's Law generally.

Keynesianism is intellectually hard, as evidenced by the inability of many trained economists to get it - Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jan 27th, 2011 at 03:57:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, the "except for electronics" was supposed to refer to depreciation times being short, not to depreciation times being five years (IIRC, consumer electronics are depreciated over three years).

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Jan 27th, 2011 at 07:02:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No expectation of demand, no investment, no matter how many tax breaks you give them.

True, but this tax cut would lower the internal rate of return required for investments, and hence increase investment, ceteris paribus. Furthermore, it would shift the economy towards higher capital intensity and hence allow higher salaries as the salary fraction of the total cost mass is lower for capital intensive business. This would, however, amount to industrial policy (gasp! oh noes!).


Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Thu Jan 27th, 2011 at 08:05:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As stimulus goes, tax credits are a notoriously weak tool. The Americans have a great deal of experience in this matter, given their proclivity for fiddling with tax cuts when they should be building infrastructure. Their results are unimpressive.

As a structural policy tool, I quite like accelerated depreciation for its shrinking effect on balance sheets. But I strongly doubt that it's going to substantially alter the capital structure of a country. Although you could probably combine it with a reduction in the deduction for outgoing interest, and end up with a package that would discourage excessive leverage while remaining more or less distributionally neutral.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Jan 27th, 2011 at 11:33:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Tax credits are viewed as a good in and of themselves by the US RW, provided they primarily benefit the wealthy. Calling one a tool is just to put a condom on it, for the protection of the wearer.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Jan 29th, 2011 at 05:57:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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