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

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

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Cunningham, Christopher R. & Engelhardt, Gary V., 2008. "Housing capital-gains taxation and homeowner mobility: Evidence from the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 63(3), pages 803-815, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:juecon:v:63:y:2008:i:3:p:803-815
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    3. Andrea J. Heuson & Gary Painter, 2011. "The Impact of the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 on Housing Turnover in the U.S. Single Family Residential Market," Working Paper 8509, USC Lusk Center for Real Estate.
    4. Maria Chiuri & Tullio Jappelli, 2010. "Do the elderly reduce housing equity? An international comparison," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 23(2), pages 643-663, March.
    5. John V. Duca & John N. Muellbauer & Anthony Murphy, 2011. "Shifting credit standards and the boom and bust in U.S. house prices," Working Papers 1104, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
    6. Cheung, Ron & Cunningham, Chris, 2011. "Who supports portable assessment caps: The role of lock-in, mobility and tax share," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(3), pages 173-186, May.
    7. Amelia M. Biehl & William H. Hoyt, 2014. "The Taxpayer Relief Act Of 1997 And Homeownership: Is Smaller Now Better?," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 52(2), pages 646-658, April.
    8. Shan, Hui, 2011. "The effect of capital gains taxation on home sales: Evidence from the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(1), pages 177-188.
    9. Sander van Veldhuizen & Bart Voogt & Benedikt Vogt & Andrea Morescalchi, 2017. "Negative home equity and job mobility," CPB Discussion Paper 345.rdf, CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis.
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    12. William H. Hoyt & Aaron Yelowitz, 2016. "Anticipated Property Tax Increases and the Timing of Home Sales: Evidence from Administrative Data," CESifo Working Paper Series 6264, CESifo.
    13. Patric H. Hendershott & Kyung-Hwan Kim & Jin Man Lee & James D. Shilling, 2021. "Announcement Effects: Taxation of Housing Capital Gains in Seoul," The Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics, Springer, vol. 62(3), pages 319-341, April.
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    15. Mizuta, Takeshi & Shimizu, Chihiro & Uesugi, Iichiro, 2016. "How Inheritance Affects the Real Estate Market in an Aging Economy: Evidence from Transaction and Registry Data," RCESR Discussion Paper Series DP16-3, Research Center for Economic and Social Risks, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University.
    16. John V. Duca & John Muellbauer & Anthony Murphy, 2011. "House Prices and Credit Constraints: Making Sense of the US Experience," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 121(552), pages 533-551, May.
    17. Sander van Veldhuizen & Bart Voogt & Benedikt Vogt & Andrea Morescalchi, 2017. "Negative home equity and job mobility," CPB Discussion Paper 345, CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis.
    18. Man Cho, 2014. "Housing price and mortgage credit cycles: tales of two countries," Chapters, in: Susan Wachter & Man Cho & Moon Joong Tcha (ed.), The Global Financial Crisis and Housing, chapter 5, pages 82-111, Edward Elgar Publishing.
    19. Peter Karpestam, 2018. "Who Benefits from More Housing? A Panel Data Study on the Role of Housing in the Intermunicipal Migration of Different Age Cohorts in Sweden," The Review of Regional Studies, Southern Regional Science Association, vol. 48(3), pages 401-425, Winter.
    20. Bradley, Sebastien, 2018. "Assessment limits and timing of real estate transactions," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(C), pages 360-372.
    21. Slemrod, Joel & Weber, Caroline & Shan, Hui, 2017. "The behavioral response to housing transfer taxes: Evidence from a notched change in D.C. policy," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 100(C), pages 137-153.
    22. Aida Caldera Sánchez & Dan Andrews, 2011. "To Move or not to Move: What Drives Residential Mobility Rates in the OECD?," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 846, OECD Publishing.
    23. Brooks Depro & Raymond B. Palmquist, 2012. "How Do Ozone Levels Influence the Timing of Residential Moves?," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 88(1), pages 43-57.
    24. Andrea J. Heuson & Gary Painter, 2014. "The Impact of the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 on Housing Turnover in the U.S. Single-Family Residential Market," Real Estate Economics, American Real Estate and Urban Economics Association, vol. 42(4), pages 869-899, December.
    25. Jeff Larrimore & Richard V. Burkhauser & Gerald Auten & Philip Armour, 2016. "Recent Trends in U.S. Top Income Shares in Tax Record Data Using More Comprehensive Measures of Income Including Accrued Capital Gains," NBER Working Papers 23007, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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