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Housing capital-gains taxation and homeowner mobility: Evidence from the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997

  • Cunningham, Christopher R.
  • Engelhardt, Gary V.

We provide new evidence on the impact of housing capital-gains taxation on homeowner behavior by examining residential mobility before and after the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 (TRA97), which generated the most sweeping reform of capital-gains taxation in the last two decades. In addition to lowering marginal tax rates on long-term capital gains for all assets, TRA97 also eliminated any differential treatment of housing gains above and below age 55, allowing all homeowners to qualify for capital-gains exclusions. Utilizing data drawn from the Current Population Survey (CPS) on either side of the law change (1996 and 1998) on homeowners just above (56-58 year olds) and below (52-54 year olds) the age-55 threshold and a reduced-form, difference-in-difference empirical approach, our estimates suggest that the repeal of the differential capital-gains tax treatment by age embodied in TRA97 had an economically important and statistically significant impact on the residential mobility of under-55 homeowners. Across a variety of specifications, the repeal raised the mobility rate by around 1-1.4 percentage points, which, for a mean mobility rate of 4 percentage points, represented an increase in the mobility rate of homeowners in their early 50s by 22-31%. Furthermore, the bulk of this effect was concentrated among highly mobile homeowners who a priori were more likely to have wanted to trade down (e.g., divorced, empty nesters), those facing higher capital gains tax rates, and those living in states that had experienced higher rates of nominal appreciation.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Urban Economics.

Volume (Year): 63 (2008)
Issue (Month): 3 (May)
Pages: 803-815

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Handle: RePEc:eee:juecon:v:63:y:2008:i:3:p:803-815
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/622905

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  1. William H. Hoyt & Stuart S. Rosenthal, 1989. "Capital gains taxation and the demand for owner-occupied housing," Working Paper Series / Economic Activity Section 92, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  2. Bruce D. Meyer & Dan T. Rosenbaum, 2001. "Welfare, The Earned Income Tax Credit, And The Labor Supply Of Single Mothers," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 116(3), pages 1063-1114, August.
  3. Green, Richard K. & Vandell, Kerry D., 1999. "Giving households credit: How changes in the U.S. tax code could promote homeownership," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(4), pages 419-444, July.
  4. Daniel Feenberg & Elisabeth Coutts, 1993. "An introduction to the TAXSIM model," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 12(1), pages 189-194.
  5. Hanushek, Eric A. & Quigley, John M., 1979. "The dynamics of the housing market: A stock adjustment model of housing consumption," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(1), pages 90-111, January.
  6. David H. Autor & Mark G. Duggan, 2003. "The Rise In The Disability Rolls And The Decline In Unemployment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(1), pages 157-205, February.
  7. Sandra Newman & James Reschovsky, 1987. "An Evaluation of the One-Time Capital Gains Exclusion for Older Homeowners," Real Estate Economics, American Real Estate and Urban Economics Association, vol. 15(1), pages 704-724.
  8. Sinai, Todd & Gyourko, Joseph, 2004. "The asset price incidence of capital gains taxes: evidence from the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 and publicly-traded real estate firms," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(7-8), pages 1543-1565, July.
  9. Douglas A. Shackelford, 2000. "Stock Market Reaction to Capital Gains Tax Changes: Empirical Evidence from the 1997 and 1998 Tax Acts," NBER Chapters, in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 14, pages 67-92 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Engelhardt, Gary V., 2003. "Nominal loss aversion, housing equity constraints, and household mobility: evidence from the United States," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 171-195, January.
  11. Gary V. Engelhardt & Jonathan Gruber & Cynthia D. Perry, 2005. "Social Security and Elderly Living Arrangements: Evidence from the Social Security Notch," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 40(2).
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