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Migration and Wage Effects of Taxing Top Earners: Evidence from the Foreigners' Tax Scheme in Denmark

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  • Henrik Jacobsen Kleven
  • Camille Landais
  • Emmanuel Saez
  • Esben Anton Schultz

Abstract

This paper analyzes the effects of income taxation on the international migration and earnings of top earners using a Danish preferential foreigner tax scheme and population-wide Danish administrative data. This scheme, introduced in 1991, allows new immigrants with high earnings to be taxed at a preferential flat rate for a duration of three years. We obtain three main results. First, the scheme has doubled the number of highly paid foreigners in Denmark relative to slightly less paid ineligible foreigners, which translates into a very large elasticity of migration with respect to the net-of-tax rate on foreigners, between 1.5 and 2. Hence, preferential tax schemes for highly paid foreign workers could create severe tax competition between countries. Second, we find compelling evidence of a negative effect of scheme-induced increases in the net-of-tax rate on pre-tax earnings at the individual level. This finding cannot be explained by the standard labor supply model where pay equals marginal productivity, but it can be rationalized by a matching frictions model with wage bargaining where there is a gap between pay and marginal productivity. Third, we find no evidence of positive or negative spillovers of the scheme-induced influx of high-skilled foreigners on the earnings of highly paid natives.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 18885.

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Date of creation: Mar 2013
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Publication status: published as Henrik Jacobsen Kleven & Camille Landais & Esben Schultz, 2013. "Migration and Wage Effects of Taxing Top Earners: Evidence from the Foreigners' Tax Scheme in Denmark," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 129(1), pages 333-378.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18885

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  1. Saez, Emmanuel & Matsaganis, Manos & Tsakloglou, Panos, 2010. "Earnings Determination and Taxes: Evidence from a Cohort-Based Payroll Tax Reform in Greece," Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, Working Paper Series, Institute of Industrial Relations, UC Berkeley qt5fr6354g, Institute of Industrial Relations, UC Berkeley.
  2. Immervoll, Herwig & Kleven, Henrik & Kreiner, Claus Thustrup & Saez, Emmanuel, 2004. "Welfare Reform in European Countries: A Micro-Simulation Analysis," CEPR Discussion Papers 4324, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Emmanuel Saez, 2010. "Do Taxpayers Bunch at Kink Points?," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 2(3), pages 180-212, August.
  4. Raj Chetty & John N. Friedman & Tore Olsen & Luigi Pistaferri, 2009. "Adjustment Costs, Firm Responses, and Micro vs. Macro Labor Supply Elasticities: Evidence from Danish Tax Records," NBER Working Papers 15617, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Mirrlees, J. A., 1982. "Migration and optimal income taxes," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(3), pages 319-341, August.
  6. Marshall, Alfred, 1890. "The Principles of Economics," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, number marshall1890.
  7. Emmanuel Saez & Joel Slemrod & Seth H. Giertz, 2012. "The Elasticity of Taxable Income with Respect to Marginal Tax Rates: A Critical Review," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 50(1), pages 3-50, March.
  8. Liebig, Thomas & Puhani, Patrick A. & Sousa-Poza, Alfonso, 2006. "Taxation And Internal Migration - Evidence From The Swiss Census Using Community-Level Variation In Income Tax Rates," Hannover Economic Papers (HEP) dp-348, Leibniz Universität Hannover, Wirtschaftswissenschaftliche Fakultät.
  9. Martin Feldstein, 1995. "Tax Avoidance and the Deadweight Loss of the Income Tax," NBER Working Papers 5055, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Henrik J. Kleven & Mazhar Waseem, 2013. "Using Notches to Uncover Optimization Frictions and Structural Elasticities: Theory and Evidence from Pakistan," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 128(2), pages 669-723.
  11. Jon Bakija & Joel Slemrod, 2004. "Do the Rich Flee from High State Taxes? Evidence from Federal Estate Tax Returns," Department of Economics Working Papers 2004-12, Department of Economics, Williams College.
  12. Enrico Moretti, 2004. "Workers' Education, Spillovers, and Productivity: Evidence from Plant-Level Production Functions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(3), pages 656-690, June.
  13. Kirchgassner, Gebhard & Pommerehne, Werner W., 1996. "Tax harmonization and tax competition in the European Union: Lessons from Switzerland," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(3), pages 351-371, June.
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Cited by:
  1. Etienne Lehmann & Laurent Simula & Alain Trannoy, 2013. "Tax Me If You Can!Optimal Nonlinear Income Tax Between Competing Governments," TEPP Working Paper, TEPP 2013-06, TEPP.
  2. Aron Kiss, 2013. "Developments in the theory of optimal income taxation with applications to the Hungarian tax system," IEHAS Discussion Papers 1317, Institute of Economics, Centre for Economic and Regional Studies, Hungarian Academy of Sciences.
  3. Spencer Bastani & Håkan Selin, 2012. "Bunching and Non-Bunching at Kink Points of the Swedish Tax Schedule," CESifo Working Paper Series 3865, CESifo Group Munich.
  4. Mario Morger, 2013. "What Do Immigrants Value Most About Switzerland? Evidence of the Relative Importance of Income Taxes," CESifo Working Paper Series 4134, CESifo Group Munich.
  5. Facundo Alvaredo & Anthony B. Atkinson & Thomas Piketty & Emmanuel Saez, 2013. "The Top 1 Percent in International and Historical Perspective," NBER Working Papers 19075, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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