Tag Archives: Tax Burden

New paper on income inequality: Does taxing the rich hurt the middle class?

Aparna Mathur (right)
Aparna Mathur (right)

Here’s an article by Indian economist Aparna Mathur.

She writes (in part):

In a recent paper that I co-authored with Kevin Hassett, we explored the effect of high corporate taxes on worker wages. The motivation for the paper came from the international tax literature (summarized by Roger Gordon and Jim Hines in a 2002 paper1) that suggested that mobile capital flows from high tax to low tax jurisdictions. In other words, in any set of competing countries, investment flows are determined by relative rates of taxation. The current U.S. headline rate of corporate tax is 35 percent. The combined federal and state statutory rate of 39 percent is second only to Japan in the OECD. With Japan set to lower its statutory rate later this year, the U.S. rate will soon be the highest in the OECD and one of the highest in the world. What effect do these high rates have on worker wages?

When capital flows out of a high tax country, such as the United States, it leads to lower domestic investment, as firms decide against adding a new machine or building a factory. The lower levels of investment affect the productivity of the American worker, because they may not have the best machines or enough machines to work with. This leads to lower wages, as there is a tight link between workers’ productivity and their pay. It could also lead to less demand for workers, since the firms have decided to carry out investment activities elsewhere.

Our paper was one of the first to explore the adverse effect of corporate taxes on worker wages. Using data on more than 100 countries, we found that higher corporate taxes lead to lower wages. In fact, workers shoulder a much larger share of the corporate tax burden (more than 100 percent) than had previously been assumed. The reason the incidence can be higher than 100 percent is neatly explained in a 2006 paper by the famous economist Arnold Harberger.2 Simply put, when taxes are imposed on a corporation, wages are lowered not only for the workers in that firm, but for all workers in the economy since otherwise competition would drive workers away from the low-wage firms. As a result, a $1 corporate income tax on a firm could lead to a $1 loss in wages for workers in that firm, but could also lead to more than a $1 loss overall when we look at the lower wages across all workers.

Following our paper, several academic economists substantiated our results, using different data sets and applying varied econometric modeling and techniques. Some examples of these studies include a 2007 paper by Mihir A. Desai and C. Fritz Foley of Harvard Business School and James Hines Jr. of Michigan University Law School, a 2007 paper by R. Alison Felix of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, a 2009 paper by Robert Carroll of The Tax Foundation, and a 2010 paper by Wiji Arulampalam of the University of Warwick and Michael Devereux and Giorgia Maffini of Oxford.3 A recent Tax Notes article that I co-authored summarizes these various studies and also the lessons from the theoretical literature on the topic. The general consensus from theory and empirical work is that while we may argue academically about the size of the effect, there is no disagreement among economists that a sizeable burden of the corporate income tax is disproportionately felt by working Americans. On average, a $1 increase in corporate tax revenues could lead to a dollar or more decline in the wage bill.

Conservatives and liberals have the same goal. We both want to help the poor. Liberals think that taking money from the rich and giving it to the poor helps, but all it does it cause the rich to move their capital and jobs elsewhere, leaving the poor poorer. Conservatives let the rich keep their money and encourage them to risk it trying to make more money by engaging in enterprises that create wealth – creating products and services from less valuable raw materials. In a socialist system, the rich get poorer, but so do the poor. In a capitalist system, the rich get very rich, but the poor also gain more wealth. That’s what happens when corporations like Apple make IPads out of junky raw materials. That’s how wealth is created – by letting people who want to make things keep more of what they earn. We all benefit from encouraging people to make new things and provide value for their neighbors.

Related articles

Are the rich paying their fair share of taxes?

Do the rich pay their fair share of taxes?
Do the rich pay their fair share of taxes?

The Hoover Institute at Stanford University tweeted this article.

Excerpt:

The Democrats’ position in the negotiations to raise the debt limit and deal with runaway government debt can be summarized in one mantric phrase: the rich must “pay their fair share” in taxes. White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer, for example, said a day before the Obama’s Sunday summit with Congressmen that any deal requires a “balanced approach that asks the very wealthiest and special interests to pay their fair share.” Earlier this year, Illinois Congressman Jan Schakowsky introduced legislation called the Fairness in Taxation Act, which she justified by saying “It’s time for millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share.” Clearly, the Democrats think this is a winning formula going into the critical 2012 elections, despite the historically verified fact that raising tax rates on top earners will not over time generate more tax revenues.

Some political Socrates needs to challenge this formula by asking for a definition of “fair.” Clearly, having the top 10% of taxpayers pay 70% of all income taxes––while nearly half of taxpayers pay nothing––isn’t considered “fair” by those who want to increase taxes on high earners. So what would be fair? Having the top 10% pay 80%, or 90%, or 100%? The U.S. already has the most progressive tax system among 24 OECD countries, ahead of socialist heartthrobs like Sweden and Norway, so what more do Democrats want?

It might be a good idea to send this article to your friends, and bookmark it in case you get into a debate.

Residents of New York and California flee high taxes and regulations

Here’s a funny story from the New York Post. (H/T National Review via ECM)

Excerpt:

On top of the city and state payroll tax, Social Security and Medicare [small-business owner John Logue] pays for employees, Logue said the city also hits him with a slew of permit fees. He recently had to pay $50 to obtain a certificate to collect sales taxes for the city and the state. In the past, it was free. He also pays the city to have a restaurant certificate, an exhaust-system permit and an illuminated-sign permit.

Logue said his [government-issued] water bills have also increased by nearly 50 percent in the last three years. Currently, he pays $1,600 every three months to the city.

“I’m getting to the point where I’m thinking about leaving New York,” he said.

And Kevin D. Williamson adds:

If you want to know where the future is headed, look where the people are going. And if you want to know where the people are going, check with U-Haul. Here’s an interesting indicator, first noted by the legendary economist Arthur Laffer: Renting a 26-foot U-Haul truck to go from Austin to San Francisco this July would cost you about $900.

Renting the same truck to go from San Francisco to Austin? About $3,000. In the great balance of supply and demand, California has a large supply of people who are demanding to move to Texas. There’s a reason for this.

Yes, prices rise when there is a high demand and supply is the same.

I once had a job interview at Fidelity in Boston, MA, and I remember going up the elevator with someone who commuted in every day from New Hampshire to avoid the taxes. And I remember thinking – this guy probably votes Democrat like everyone else in Boston.And shortly thereafter, New Hampshire turned blue and is now somewhere down in the gutter.

Why do Democrats do this to themselves? Anyway, the whole country will be like New York and California if more of these crappy bills pass, and where will we run to then? We’ll be stuck until the next election, and it serves us right. I think a good long period of suffering under Obama is just what we need to learn the importance of economics – the hard way.