Who Benefits from State Corporate Tax Cuts? A Local Labor Markets Approach with Heterogeneous Firms

Source: Juan Carlos Suárez Serrato, National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), Owen M. Zidar, NBER Working Paper No. w20289, July 2014
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From the abstract:
This paper estimates the incidence of state corporate taxes on workers, landowners, and firm owners in a spatial equilibrium model in which corporate taxes affect the location choices of both firms and workers. Heterogeneous, location-specific productivities and preferences determine the mobility of firms and workers, respectively. Owners of monopolistically competitive firms receive economic profits and may bear the incidence of corporate taxes as heterogeneous productivity can make them inframarginal in their location choices. We derive a simple expression for equilibrium incidence as a function of a few estimable parameters. Using variation in state corporate tax rates and apportionment rules, we estimate the reduced-form effects of tax changes on firm and worker location decisions, wages, and rental costs. We then use minimum distance methods to recover the parameters that determine equilibrium incidence as a function of these reduced-form effects. In contrast to previous assumptions of infinitely mobile firms and perfectly immobile workers, we find that firms are only approximately twice as mobile as workers over a ten-year period. This fact, along with equilibrium impacts on the housing market, implies that firm owners bear roughly 40% of the incidence, while workers and land owners bear 35% and 25%, respectively. Finally, we derive revenue-maximizing state corporate tax rates and discuss interactions with other local taxes and apportionment formulae.