Should Advertising Remain a Tax-Deductible Business Expense?

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Advertising expenses have been deductible ever since the income tax was enacted in 1913. Over the years, however, a number of analysts have questioned advertising's tax status. According to some, advertising creates intangible capital and should, therefore, be capitalized and amortized like other capital assets. According to other analysts, advertising does more to reduce welfare than to augment it; therefore, the deduction should be completely denied. Advertisers and their supporters, on the other hand, maintain that the deduction is entirely reasonable.

This dissertation addresses some of the legal controversies involving the deduction and examines some of advertising's economic psychological, sociological and ecological effects. In Part I, Chapter 1 introduces the research question and debates the welfare implications of ad-induced economic growth. Chapter 2 considers whether advertising is, in fact, an "ordinary and necessary business expense" that is entitled to a tax deduction. Although advocates for the deduction claim that it is both ordinary and necessary, some critics argue that the deduction is, in fact, a subsidy that shifts more of the tax burden to individual taxpayers.

Part II is devoted to the economic effects of advertising. Chapter 3 discusses advertising's impact on demand for the output of an individual firm, a particular industry, and all industries combined. Chapter 4 examines the effect of advertising on the competitive model; Chapter 5 evaluates advertising's influence on innovation, employment, and savings; and Chapter 6 considers the economic impact of advertising on the media.

The focus in Part III is on advertising's influence on well-being. Chapter 7 examines ways that advertising affects the well-being of individuals and society. Chapter 8 surveys the impact of ad-induced materialistic values on the environment. Chapter 9 looks at a number of costs and benefits that are associated with advertising, discusses potential obstacles to changing advertising's tax status, and offers recommendations for policymakers.