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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
  • Esben Schultz

Abstract

This article 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 two main results. First, the scheme has doubled the number of highly paid foreigners in Denmark relative to slightly less paid--and therefore ineligible--foreigners. This translates into a very large elasticity of migration with respect to 1 minus the average tax rate on foreigners, between 1.5 and 2. Second, we find compelling evidence of a negative effect of the scheme-induced reduction in the average tax rate on pretax earnings of foreign migrants at the individual level. This finding can be rationalized by a matching frictions model with wage bargaining where there is a gap between pay and marginal productivity. JEL Codes: H31, J61. Copyright 2014, Oxford University Press.

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  • Henrik Jacobsen Kleven & Camille Landais & Esben Schultz, 2014. "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:oup:qjecon:v:129:y:2014:i:1:p:333-378
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H22 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Incidence
    • H31 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Household
    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers

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