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Can State Taxes Redistribute Income?

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  • Feldstein, Martin
  • Wrobel, Marian Vaillant
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    Abstract

    The evidence presented in this paper supports the basic theoretical presumption that state and local governments cannot redistribute income. Since individuals can avoid unfavorable taxes by migrating to jurisdictions that offer more favorable tax conditions, a relatively unfavorable tax will cause gross wages to adjust until the resulting net wage is equal to that available elsewhere. The current empirical findings go beyond confirming this long-run tendency and show that gross wages adjust rapidly to the changing tax environment. Thus, states cannot redistribute income for a period of even a few years. The adjustment of gross wages to tax rates implies that a more progressive tax system raises the cost to firms of hiring more highly skilled employees and reduces the cost of lower skilled labor. A more progressive tax thus induces firms to hire fewer high skilled employees and to hire more low skilled employees. Since state taxes cannot alter net wages, there can be no trade-off at the state level between distribution goals and economic efficiency. Shifts in state tax progressivity, by altering the structure of employment in the state and distorting the mix of labor inputs used by firms in the state, create deadweight efficiency losses without achieving any net redistribution.

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    File URL: http://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/2799054/feldstein_statetaxes.pdf
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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Harvard University Department of Economics in its series Scholarly Articles with number 2799054.

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    Date of creation: 1994
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    Publication status: Published in Journal of Public Economics
    Handle: RePEc:hrv:faseco:2799054

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    1. Metcalf, Gilbert & Feldstein, Martin, 1987. "The Effect of Federal Tax Deductibility on State and Local Taxes and Spending," Scholarly Articles 2766699, Harvard University Department of Economics.
    2. Feldstein, Martin, 1995. "The Effect of Marginal Tax Rates on Taxable Income: A Panel Study of the 1986 Tax Reform Act," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(3), pages 551-72, June.
    3. Wallace, Sally, 1993. "The effects of state personal income tax differentials on wages," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(5), pages 611-628, November.
    4. Charles M. Tiebout, 1956. "A Pure Theory of Local Expenditures," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 64, pages 416.
    5. Joseph Gyourko & Joseph S. Tracy, 1986. "The Importance of Local Fiscal Conditions in Analyzing Local Labor Markets," NBER Working Papers 2040, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. David Card, 1992. "The Effect of Unions on the Distribution of Wages: Redistribution or Relabelling?," NBER Working Papers 4195, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Gordon, Roger H, 1986. "Taxation of Investment and Savings in a World Economy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(5), pages 1086-1102, December.
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    Cited by:
    1. Inman, Robert P. & Rubinfeld, Daniel L., 1996. "Designing tax policy in federalist economies: An overview," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(3), pages 307-334, June.
    2. FIGUIÈRES, Charles & HINDRIKS, Jean & MYLES, Gareth D., 2001. "Revenue sharing versus expenditure sharing," CORE Discussion Papers 2001015, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
    3. Edward L. Glaeser, 1996. "Should Transfer Payments Be Indexed to Local Price Levels?," NBER Working Papers 5598, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Robert P. Inman & Daniel L. Rubinfeld, 1997. "Rethinking Federalism," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 11(4), pages 43-64, Fall.
    5. Michael Wasylenko, 1997. "Taxation and economic development: the state of the economic literature," New England Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, issue Mar, pages 37-52.
    6. Daphne A. Kenyon, 1997. "Theories of interjurisdictional competition," New England Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, issue Mar, pages 13-36.
    7. Mark Rider, 2006. "The Effect of Personal Income Tax Rates on Individual and Business Decisions - A Review of the Evidence," International Center for Public Policy Working Paper Series, at AYSPS, GSU paper0615, International Center for Public Policy, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University.
    8. Ralf Maiterth & Markus Zwick, 2006. "A Local Income and Corporation Tax as an Alternative to the German Local Business Tax," Journal of Economics and Statistics (Jahrbuecher fuer Nationaloekonomie und Statistik), Justus-Liebig University Giessen, Department of Statistics and Economics, vol. 226(3), pages 285-307, May.

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