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Which Households Own Municipal Bonds? Evidence From Tax Returns

  • Daniel R. Feenberg
  • James M. Poterba

This paper uses data from 1988 federal income tax returns, which asked taxpayers to report their tax-exempt interest income as an information item, to analyze the distribution of tax-exempt asset holdings. More than three quarters of the tax-exempt debt held by households was held by those with marginal tax rates of 28% or more. The paper reports two measures of the average marginal tax rate on tax-exempt debt. The first measures the increase in taxes if a small fraction of each taxpayer's exempt interest income were converted to taxable interest. This weighted average of 'first-dollar" marginal tax rates was 25.8%. A second calculation finds that if all tax-exempt interest were reported as taxable interest, taxes would rise by 27.6% of the increase in taxable interest. Many taxpayers who have substantial tax-exempt interest receipts, but low first-dollar marginal tax rates, would be driven into higher tax brackets if the exemption were eliminated but their portfolios remained the same.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 3900.

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Date of creation: Nov 1991
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Publication status: published as National Tax Journal, Volume XLIV, No. 4, Part 1, pp. 93-103, (December 1991). Available through NBER.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:3900
Note: PE
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  1. Auerbach, Alan J & King, Mervyn A, 1983. "Taxation, Portfolio Choice, and Debt-Equity Ratios: A General Equilibrium Model," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 98(4), pages 587-609, November.
  2. Poterba, James M., 1989. "Tax reform and the market for tax-exempt debt," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(3), pages 537-562, August.
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