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The effect of capital gains taxation on home sales: evidence from the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997

  • Hui Shan
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The Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 (TRA97) significantly changed the tax treatment of housing capital gains in the United States. Before 1997, homeowners were subject to capital gains taxation when they sold their houses unless they purchased replacement homes of equal or greater value. Since 1997, homeowners can exclude $500,000 of capital gains when they sell their houses. Such drastic changes provide a good opportunity to study the lock-in effect of capital gains taxation on home sales. Using ZIP-code level housing price indexes and sales on single-family houses data from 1982 to 2006 in 16 affluent towns within the Boston metropolitan area, this paper finds that TRA97 reversed the lock-in effect of capital gains taxes on houses with low and moderate capital gains. However, TRA97 may have generated an unintended lock-in effect on houses with capital gains over the maximum exclusion amount. In addition, this paper exploits legislative changes in capital gains tax rate to estimate the tax elasticity of home sales during the post-TRA97 period.

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Paper provided by Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.) in its series Finance and Economics Discussion Series with number 2008-53.

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Date of creation: 2008
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgfe:2008-53
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  1. Karl E. Case & Robert J. Shiller, 1988. "The behavior of home buyers in boom and post-boom markets," New England Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, issue Nov, pages 29-46.
  2. King, Mervyn A., 1980. "An econometric model of tenure choice and demand for housing as a joint decision," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(2), pages 137-159, October.
  3. Amelia M. Biehl & William Hoyt, 2009. "The Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 and Homeownership: Is Smaller Now Better?," Working Papers 2009-04, University of Kentucky, Institute for Federalism and Intergovernmental Relations.
  4. Poterba, James M, 1984. "Tax Subsidies to Owner-occupied Housing: An Asset-Market Approach," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 99(4), pages 729-52, November.
  5. 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.).
  6. Katherine A. Kiel & Jeffrey E. Zabel, 1999. "The Accuracy of Owner-Provided House Values: The 1978-1991 American Housing Survey," Real Estate Economics, American Real Estate and Urban Economics Association, vol. 27(2), pages 263-298.
  7. Todd Sinai, 1997. "Taxation, User Cost, and Household Mobility Decisions," Zell/Lurie Center Working Papers 303, Wharton School Samuel Zell and Robert Lurie Real Estate Center, University of Pennsylvania.
  8. Mervyn A. King, 1980. "An econometric model of tenure choice and demand for housing as a joint decision," NBER Chapters, in: Econometric Studies in Public Finance, pages 137-159 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Zhonglan Dai & Edward Maydew & Douglas A. Shackelford & Harold H. Zhang, 2006. "Capital Gains Taxes and Asset Prices: Capitalization or Lock-In?," NBER Working Papers 12342, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. 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.
  11. Goodman, John Jr. & Ittner, John B., 1992. "The accuracy of home owners' estimates of house value," Journal of Housing Economics, Elsevier, vol. 2(4), pages 339-357, December.
  12. Rosen, Harvey S., 1979. "Housing decisions and the U.S. income tax : An econometric analysis," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 11(1), pages 1-23, February.
  13. Hoyt, William H. & Rosenthal, Stuart S., 1992. "Owner-occupied housing, capital gains, and the Tax Reform Act of 1986," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(2), pages 119-139, September.
  14. Sandra J. Newman & James D. Reschovsky, 1987. "Federal policy and the mobility of older homeowners," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 6(3), pages 402-416.
  15. Bound, John & Brown, Charles & Mathiowetz, Nancy, 2001. "Measurement error in survey data," Handbook of Econometrics, in: J.J. Heckman & E.E. Leamer (ed.), Handbook of Econometrics, edition 1, volume 5, chapter 59, pages 3705-3843 Elsevier.
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