Category Archives: Taxation

Making Sense Of Incentives: Taming Business Incentives to Promote Prosperity

Source: Timothy J. Bartik, Upjohn Press, 2019

From the summary:
In recent months, “Foxconn” and “Amazon HQ2” brought immediacy to a costly and lingering subject: economic development incentives. State and local policymakers regularly dangle tax breaks and other financial incentives as lures to attract and sometimes retain businesses and the jobs they say they’ll create. Oversight of these programs is often weak or nonexistent, yet tens of billions of taxpayer dollars are spent each year on these efforts. In the cases of Foxconn and Amazon, billions were offered for each project. Are these incentives worth the price? How do we know? Are they effective at promoting job growth? Is there a better way to grow good-paying jobs in a local labor market?

These questions and more are answered in a new book by Timothy J. Bartik, Making Sense of Incentives: Taming Business Incentives to Promote Prosperity (Upjohn Press, 2019). The book is relatively brief, straightforward, nontechnical, and just what state and local policymakers need to read. It is also available as a free download.

Bartik begins by explaining the basics: What are economic development incentives? Who offers them? Why are they offered? What are the political and economic considerations involved? Why are incentives often wasteful? He then delves into the recent trends in business incentives, including how generous offers have become and whether they threaten needed public services (especially K–12 education), which types of firms tend to receive incentives, and whether needy areas tend to be targeted.

Policymakers often tout the multipliers associated with jobs created via business incentives—e.g., for every one job created another two jobs will appear as a result. But Bartik shows that these numbers are often specious, and why, while providing more realistic estimates.

Then, based on his decades of ground-breaking research, he explains what policymakers can do to improve the use of business incentives. Bartik doesn’t think incentives should be ruled out, just improved, and he explains how this can be achieved. And in his chapter on how to evaluate the success of incentive programs, he describes the program details that need to be considered, and how to use them, in order to judge whether the benefits of incentives exceed the costs.

Investigating Sales Tax Revenue Competition Among Principal Cities and Their Neighboring Cities in Texas

Source: Michael Overton & Julius Nukpezah, International Journal of Public Administration, Latest Articles, September 9, 2019

From the abstract:
While research has explored the economic importance of principal cities on regional economies, little is known about the short-run and long-run dynamic relationships between principal cities and their neighboring cities as it pertains to their sales tax revenue elasticities and the subsequent affect this has on horizontal tax competition. Using vector error correction models on data from six principal cities in Texas, the findings of this study suggest that the relationship between principal and neighboring cities is highly dynamic and unique for each principal city. The study recommends that local economic policies should reflect these unique relationships.

Distributional Impacts of State and Local Tax Policy in a Heterogeneous-agent Model

Source: Jorge A. Barro, Public Finance Review, Online First, Published September 8, 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This article presents a dynamic heterogeneous-agent life-cycle model with housing demand to evaluate the economic implications of reforming US state and local personal tax structures. Because of the extensive reliance of state and local governments on income, sales, and property tax revenue, those three taxes are explicitly modeled to generate a baseline and varied to evaluate alternative policy proposals. The results of the model show that the sales tax burden falls evenly across the distribution of income earners, while the property tax burden falls more heavily on the highest income earners. By design, the model’s income tax is progressive, so the tax burden shares rise with income. Results also show that the property tax generally improves utilitarian social welfare relative to income and sales taxation, but the magnitude of these gains depends on the availability of a state and local tax deduction on federal income taxes.

Financial Condition and Population Decline: The Challenge in Attracting Residents

Source: Daniel Hummel, PA Times blog, August 24, 2019

….Shrinking cities are under pressure by their state governments to remain solvent. This manifests itself as a singular focus on this area of public management. This has also led to an increasing reliance on non-governmental entities to provide important community services. Governance in these cities has been described as reliant on collaborations and networks between government, non-profits and businesses in a structured, but non-hierarchical way. This has raised serious concerns about democracy when these entities are providing many of the services that a city government used to provide through accountable and transparent means. It also increases uncertainty in the long-term provision of these services. These are difficult problems without simple solutions, with shrinking cities continuing to lose population…..

Tax Law’s Workplace Shift

Source: Shu-Yi Oei, Diane M. Ring, Boston College Law School Legal Studies Research Paper No. 506, Last revised: 16 May 2019

From the abstract:
In December 2017, Congress passed major tax reform. The reform included an important new provision that grants independent contractors and other passthrough taxpayers, but not employees or corporations, a potential tax deduction equal to 20% of their qualified business income. Critics have argued that this new deduction (26 U.S.C. § 199A) could lead to a widespread shift towards independent contractor jobs as workers seek to reduce taxes paid. This shift could cause workers to lose important employee protections and leave them more vulnerable.

This Article examines whether this new tax provision will create a large-scale workplace shift, and if it does, how that shift should be normatively evaluated. It argues that while tax law in general has important and underappreciated effects on work arrangements, it is difficult to isolate § 199A as the driver of a broad workplace shift. Several other non-tax legal changes and non-legal economic developments are transforming work arrangements and classification choices, and § 199A is only one factor. Moreover, § 199A is not even the only tax law change that is likely to impact classification choices.

We also argue, drawing on empirical data on contemporary workplace trends, that even if new § 199A induces a workplace shift, how this shift is evaluated must depend on the types of workers and work at issue. While an independent contractor shift may increase precariousness for some workers, empirical data suggests that for others, a shift may be less troubling, or troubling for different reasons. Our Article lays a framework for analyzing how tax law contributes to and interacts with other factors in ultimately shaping contemporary work arrangements.

Political Economy of the Parcel Tax in California School Districts

Source: Soomi Lee, Public Finance Review, OnlineFirst, Published July 16, 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This article examines the effect of home price distribution on the likelihood of parcel tax adoption in California school districts. A parcel tax is a regressive tax imposed as the same amount per unit of property regardless of property values and requires a two-thirds supermajority vote to be adopted. Despite the growing role that local parcel taxes have in funding public education, it has not been fully understood how their regressive nature influences adoption. I argue that because the regressive tax imposes different marginal property tax rates for voters, the distribution of home prices within a district determines the likelihood of parcel tax adoption. Using the Heckman selection models with California school district–level data, I find that a large gap in home values within a district significantly lowers the likelihood of parcel tax adoption.

U.S. Investment Since the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017

Source: Emanuel Kopp, Daniel Leigh, Susanna Mursula, Suchanan Tambunlertchai, International Monetary Fund (IMF), IMF Working Paper No. 19/120, May 2019

From the abstract:
There is no consensus on how strongly the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) has stimulated U.S. private fixed investment. Some argue that the business tax provisions spurred investment by cutting the cost of capital. Others see the TCJA primarily as a windfall for shareholders. We find that U.S. business investment since 2017 has grown strongly compared to pre-TCJA forecasts and that the overriding factor driving it has been the strength of expected aggregate demand. Investment has, so far, fallen short of predictions based on the postwar relation with tax cuts. Model simulations and firm-level data suggest that much of this weaker response reflects a lower sensitivity of investment to tax policy changes in the current environment of greater corporate market power. Economic policy uncertainty in 2018 played a relatively small role in dampening investment growth.

Evaluating the Effects of Childcare Policies on Children’s Cognitive Development and Maternal Labor Supply

Source: Andrew S. Griffen, Journal of Human Resources, Vol. 54 no. 3, Summer 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
To explore the role of childcare policies in the development of early cognitive skills, this paper jointly estimates a cognitive achievement production function and a dynamic, discrete choice model of maternal labor supply and childcare decisions. Using counterfactuals from the model, I investigate how the designs of two childcare programs, Head Start and childcare subsidies, affect the formation of cognitive skills through maternal work and childcare decisions. The results suggest large impacts on cognitive skills from expanding Head Start to current noneligibles and negligible impacts of subsidies on cognitive skills of current eligibles.

Financial Frictions and Stimulative Effects of Temporary Corporate Tax Cuts

Source: William Gbohoui, Rui Castro, IMF Working Paper No. 19/97, May 2019

From the abstract:
This paper uses an industry equilibrium model where some firms are financially constrained to quantify the effects of a transitory corporate tax cut funded by a future tax increase on the U.S. economy. It finds that by increasing current cash-flows tax cuts alleviate financing frictions, hereby stimulating current investment. Per dollar of tax stimulus, aggregate investment increases by 26 cents on impact, and aggregate output by 3.5 cents. The average effect masks heterogeneity: multipliers are close to 1 for constrained firms, especially new entrants, and negative for larger and unconstrained firms. The output effects extend well past the period the policy is reversed, leading to a cumulative multiplier of 7.2 cents. Multipliers are significantly larger when controlling for the investment crowding-out effect among unconstrained firms.

In divided Alaska, the choice is between paying for government or giving residents bigger oil wealth check

Source: Paola Banchero, The Conversation, July 15, 2019

The Alaska legislature was unable to get enough support to block the cuts through a veto override late last week.

The budget cuts will be immediate, affecting most Alaskans. ….

….. How did Alaska, one of the country’s richest states with a $65 billion savings account fueled by oil royalties and leasing revenues, get into this position?

The troubles have been a long time coming.

As the state prepared to reap the benefits of its oil reserves in the 1970s as the trans-Alaska oil pipeline neared completion, voters approved in 1976 an amendment to the Alaska Constitution establishing the Alaska Permanent Fund.

The idea was to save a slice of the current oil windfall in a special fund for future generations when the oil ran out. Meanwhile, the rest of the massive oil royalties – $391.5 million in 1976, more than four times the amount collected the previous year – flowed into state coffers. That meant less need to rely on the traditional way government raises money: taxes. So the legislature repealed a state income tax and the Alaska school tax in 1980.

Now, most Alaska communities have no sales tax and property taxes are low. The total state and local tax burden on Alaskans is the lowest in the country.

In addition to repealing state taxes, Alaska legislators in 1980 approved a payout from mineral royalties to state residents called the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend, or “PFD.” ….