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Capital Gains Taxation and Tax Avoidance: New Evidence from Panel Data

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  • Alan J. Auerbach
  • Leonard E. Burman
  • Jonathan Siegel

Abstract

Previous theoretical analyses of the capital gains tax have suggested that investors have considerable opportunity to avoid the tax. Yet, past empirical work has found relatively little evidence of such activity. Using a previously unavailable panel data set with a very large sample of high-income individuals, this paper aims to bring the theory and evidence closer together by examining the behavior of individual taxpayers over time. Though confirming past findings that avoidance of tax on realized capital gains is not prevalent, we do observe that tax avoidance activity increased after the passage of the Tax Reform Act of 1986, and that high-income, high-wealth and more sophisticated taxpayers were most likely to avoid tax. However, the efficacy of tax avoidance strategies depends on being able to avoid tax for long periods, and we find that most tax avoidance is of relatively short duration. Thus, the effective tax rate on realized capital gains is very close to the statutory rate in all years and tax brackets.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 6399.

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Date of creation: Feb 1998
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Publication status: published as Slemrod, J. (ed.) Does Atlas Shrug? The Economic Consequences of Taxing the Rich. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2002.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6399

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  1. Constantinides, George M. & Ingersoll, Jonathan Jr., 1984. "Optimal bond trading with personal taxes," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(3), pages 299-335, September.
  2. James M. Poterba, 1986. "How Burdensome Are Capital Gains Taxes?," Working papers 410, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  3. Auten, Gerald E & Clotfelter, Charles T, 1982. "Permanent versus Transitory Tax Effects and the Realization of Capital Gains," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 97(4), pages 613-32, November.
  4. Feldstein, Martin & Slemrod, Joel & Yitzhaki, Shlomo, 1980. "The Effects of Taxation on the Selling of Corporate Stock and the Realization of Capital Gains," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 94(4), pages 777-91, June.
  5. Rosanne Altshuler & Alan J. Auerbach, 1987. "The Significance of Tax Law Asymmetries: An Empirical Investigation," NBER Working Papers 2279, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Bruce D. Meyer, 1988. "Unemployment Insurance And Unemployment Spells," NBER Working Papers 2546, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Seyhun, H Nejat & Skinner, Douglas J, 1994. "How Do Taxes Affect Investors' Stock Market Realizations? Evidence from Tax-Return Panel Data," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 67(2), pages 231-62, April.
  8. Stiglitz, Joseph E., 1983. "Some aspects of the taxation of capital gains," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(2), pages 257-294, July.
  9. Alan J. Auerbach, 1988. "Capital Gains Taxation in the United States: Realizations, Revenue, and Rhetoric," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 19(2), pages 595-638.
  10. Blank, Rebecca M., 1989. "Analyzing the length of welfare spells," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(3), pages 245-273, August.
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Cited by:
  1. Grinblatt, Mark & Keloharju, Matti, 2004. "Tax-loss trading and wash sales," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 71(1), pages 51-76, January.
  2. John B. Shoven & Clemens Sialm, 1999. "Asset Location in Tax-Deferred and Conventional Savings Accounts," NBER Working Papers 7192, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Matthew Eichner & Todd Sinai, . "Capital Gains Tax Realizations and Tax Rates: New Evidence From Times Series," Zell/Lurie Center Working Papers 334, Wharton School Samuel Zell and Robert Lurie Real Estate Center, University of Pennsylvania.
  4. Viard, Alan D., 2000. "Dynamic asset pricing effects and incidence of realization-based capital gains taxes," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 46(2), pages 465-488, October.
  5. Zoran Ivković & James Poterba & Scott Weisbenner, 2005. "Tax-Motivated Trading by Individual Investors," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(5), pages 1605-1630, December.
  6. James M. Poterba & Scott J. Weisbenner, 1998. "Capital Gains Tax Rules, Tax Loss Trading and Turn-of-the-Year Returns," NBER Working Papers 6616, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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