¿Causaron los impuestos la crisis financiera?

CAMBRIDGE – Después de que estallara la crisis financiera en 2008, muchos observadores achacaron la crisis en gran parte al hecho de que muchas entidades financieras se habían cargado de deuda y dependían sólo de una fina capa de fondos propios. La razón es sencilla: mientras que los fondos propios pueden absorber una contracción del negocio –los beneficios disminuyen, pero la entidad no quiebra inmediatamente-, la deuda es menos indulgente, porque los acreedores no esperan con paciencia a que se les pague. Los acreedores a corto plazo o cobran o se niegan a refinanciar sus préstamos, con lo que deniegan el crédito a entidades financieramente debilitadas. Los acreedores a largo plazo piden que se los “resarza” y demandan judicialmente. Sin liquidez, la entidad quiebra.

Las entidades financieras de los Estados Unidos pagan un 34 por ciento, aproximadamente, de sus beneficios en impuestos y, si bien pueden deducirse del valor gravable los pagos de intereses a acreedores, los fondos propios reciben un trato menos favorable. La mayoría de los países tienen preferencias tributarias similares por la deuda frente a los fondos propios, con lo que –como saben los analistas financieros desde hace mucho– fomentan el recurso de las entidades financieras y de otra índole a más deuda.

Y, sin embargo, se rechazó rápidamente el argumento de que esa preferencia tributaria por la deuda desempeñó un papel en la crisis financiera y de que sigue siendo un riesgo permanente para la estabilidad financiera. Al fin y al cabo, la preferencia tributaria por la deuda ha existido desde hace mucho tiempo y nada la intensificó antes de que estallara la crisis. Al contrario, si acaso: la preferencia tributaria ha disminuido un poco con el tiempo. Y la crisis estuvo clarísimamente vinculada con la explosión de los valores respaldados por hipotecas de riesgo en los Estados Unidos; cuando el mercado comprendió abruptamente que no se podían pagar totalmente esos valores, se consideró que muchas entidades financieras sistémicamente importantes eran más débiles de lo que habían parecido, a lo que siguieron consecuencias económicas catastróficas.

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