Measurement and Tax Depreciation Policy: The Case of Short-Term Intangibles
David A. Weisbach
Depreciation is difficult and expensive to measure yet central to taxing capital income. This paper focuses on depreciation of intangibles and considers whether measurement resources should be allocated to intangibles with longer lives on the theory that depreciation matters more for long-term than for short-term intangibles. Current law reflects this approach. This paper argues that contrary to this intuition, accuracy in depreciation is more important for short-term than for long-term intangibles. Nevertheless, measurement costs are likely to be higher for short-term than for long-term intangibles, which means that we might expect less accuracy, all else equal, for short-term intangibles, consistent with current law.
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