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Beggar-Thy-Neighbour Tax Cuts: Mobility after a Local Income and Wealth Tax Reform in Switzerland

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  • Martinez, Isabel Z.

Abstract

Tax competition raises the question to which extent taxpayers respond to differences in income tax rates by migrating to low-tax areas. This paper analyzes a large, two-step tax reform in the canton of Obwalden in central Switzerland in 2006 and 2008. The canton first introduced a regressive income tax scheme with the explicit purpose of attracting affluent taxpayers, followed by a change to a flat rate tax, thereby lowering taxes for all taxpayers. Using individual tax data from the cantonal tax administration, I apply a 2SLS approach to estimate how responsive migration was to the tax reduction. I estimate an elasticity of the stock of rich taxpayers in the canton with respect to the average net-of-tax rate of 2.4 in the first two years after the reform, increasing to 3.5 over the five post-reform years. The corresponding elsticities of the inflow of rich taxpayers are even larger. These estimates are larger than what the few studies on tax induced mobility elasticity have found so far. I can further rule out that these results are due to an exogenous positive income shock to top incomes. DiD estimations comparing the share of rich taxpayers and net income per taxpayer in Obwalden to two neighboring cantons confirm that the reform was successful in increasing the canton's tax base. The large elasticities can be explained by two aspects. First, by the sizable pool of intentionally treated and the prevailing residence-based taxation, as opposed to source-based taxation. Through relocating to Obwalden, any Swiss and European citizen could take advantage of this tax scheme. Second, by the initially low share of rich taxpayers in Obwalden and the small size of the canton.

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  • Martinez, Isabel Z., 2016. "Beggar-Thy-Neighbour Tax Cuts: Mobility after a Local Income and Wealth Tax Reform in Switzerland," VfS Annual Conference 2016 (Augsburg): Demographic Change 145643, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:vfsc16:145643
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    Cited by:

    1. Henrik Kleven & Camille Landais & Mathilde Muñoz & Stefanie Stantcheva, 2020. "Taxation and Migration: Evidence and Policy Implications," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 34(2), pages 119-142, Spring.
    2. Marius Brülhart & Jonathan Gruber & Matthias Krapf & Kurt Schmidheiny, 2022. "Behavioral Responses to Wealth Taxes: Evidence from Switzerland," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 14(4), pages 111-150, November.
    3. Katrine Jakobsen & Kristian Jakobsen & Henrik Kleven & Gabriel Zucman, 2020. "Wealth Taxation and Wealth Accumulation: Theory and Evidence From Denmark," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 135(1), pages 329-388.
    4. Isabel Z. Martínez & Emmanuel Saez & Michael Siegenthaler, 2021. "Intertemporal Labor Supply Substitution? Evidence from the Swiss Income Tax Holidays," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 111(2), pages 506-546, February.
    5. Marius Brülhart & Jonathan Gruber & Matthias Krapf & Kurt Schmidheiny, 2022. "Behavioral Responses to Wealth Taxes: Evidence from Switzerland," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 14(4), pages 111-150, November.
    6. Marius Brülhart & Jonathan Gruber & Matthias Krapf & Kurt Schmidheiny, 2016. "Taxing Wealth: Evidence from Switzerland," CESifo Working Paper Series 5966, CESifo.
    7. Mathilde Munoz, 2019. "How Much are the Poor Losing from Tax Competition: The Welfare Effects of Fiscal Dumping in Europe," PSE Working Papers hal-02876988, HAL.
    8. Beatrix Eugster & Raphaël Parchet, 2019. "Culture and Taxes," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 127(1), pages 296-337.
    9. Mathilde Munoz, 2019. "How Much are the Poor Losing from Tax Competition: The Welfare Effects of Fiscal Dumping in Europe," Working Papers hal-02876988, HAL.
    10. Mathilde Munoz, 2019. "How Much are the Poor Losing from Tax Competition: The Welfare Effects of Fiscal Dumping in Europe," World Inequality Lab Working Papers hal-02876988, HAL.

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    JEL classification:

    • H71 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - State and Local Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue
    • H24 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Personal Income and Other Nonbusiness Taxes and Subsidies
    • H31 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Household

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