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Do the Rich Flee from High State Taxes? Evidence from Federal Estate Tax Returns

This paper examines how changes in state tax policy affect the number of federal estate tax returns filed in each state, utilizing data on federal estate tax return filings by state and wealth class for 18 years between 1965 and 1998. Controlling for state- and wealthclass specific fixed effects, we find that high state inheritance and estate taxes and sales taxes have statistically significant, but modest, negative impacts on the number of federal estate tax returns filed in a state. High personal income tax and property tax burdens are also found to have negative effects, but these results are somewhat sensitive to alternative specifications. This evidence is consistent with the notion that wealthy elderly people change their real (or reported) state of residence to avoid high state taxes, although it could partly reflect other modes of tax avoidance as well. We discuss the implications for the debate over whether individual states should decouple their estate taxes from federal law, which would retain the state tax even as the federal credit for such taxes is eliminated. Our results suggest that migration and other observationally equivalent avoidance activities in response to such a tax would cause revenue losses and deadweight losses, but that these would not be large relative to the revenue raised by the tax.

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File URL: http://web.williams.edu/Economics/wp/bakijaDoTheRichFleeJuly7th2004.pdf
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Paper provided by Department of Economics, Williams College in its series Department of Economics Working Papers with number 2004-12.

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Length: 65 pages
Date of creation: Jul 2004
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wil:wileco:2004-12
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  17. Moulton, Brent R, 1990. "An Illustration of a Pitfall in Estimating the Effects of Aggregate Variables on Micro Unit," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 72(2), pages 334-38, May.
  18. Nechyba, Thomas J. & Strauss, Robert P., 1998. "Community choice and local public services: A discrete choice approach," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 51-73, January.
  19. Joel Slemrod & Wojciech Kopczuk, 2000. "The Impact of the Estate Tax on the Wealth Accumulation and Avoidance Behavior of Donors," NBER Working Papers 7960, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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