税收引起了金融危机吗?

美国剑桥—2008年金融危机爆发后,许多观察者认为危机很大程度上是拜一个事实所赐:太多的金融机构累积了大量债务,但可以依赖的股本太少。这里的道理很直观:股本能吸收业务衰退——利润下降,但企业并不会立刻倒闭——但债务很难赦免,因为债权人在偿付时不愿等待。短期债权人要求按条款付清现金,拒绝贷款展期,不给财务恶化的企业信用。长期债权人要求“整体化”并提出上诉。没有现金,企业就得倒闭。

美国的金融企业利润中34%要缴税,此外尽管它们可以把向债权人支付的利息从应税所得中扣除,但股本仍需要纳税。大部分国家都存在类似的在税务上优惠债务而不利于股本的情况,这鼓励金融业和其他公司更多地使用债务,这是财务分析师早就知道的事情。

但认为这一偏袒债务的课税偏好在金融危机中也扮演了角色——且依然是金融稳定的风险来源——的观点立刻遭到了否认。毕竟,偏袒债务的课税偏好存在已经很长时间,但在危机爆发前一直无人强调。相反,真要细究起来,课税偏好随着时间的推移还有了一定程度的减弱。且危机显然与美国高风险按揭支持证券问题爆发有关;当市场突然意识到这些证券无法获得全额偿付时,许多具系统重要性的金融企业就被视为比以前孱弱得多。随之而来的是灾难性的经济后果。

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