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Posts Tagged ‘Laffer’

An insightful editorial from the Wall Street Journal examines how soak-the-rich taxes in Maryland backfired, leading to less revenue for the government. The politicians would like us to think this is just the effect of the recession, but the article points out that one out of every eight millionaires who filed a tax return in 2007 did not file one in 2008. A few may have died, but the big reason for this shocking reduction is migration. As one study discovered, Maryland’s tax base fell by $1 billion because successful taxpayers escaped to other states:

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn is the latest Democrat to demand a tax increase, this week proposing to raise the state’s top marginal individual income tax rate to 4% from 3%. He’d better hope this works out better than it has for Maryland. …The politicians in Annapolis had said they’d collect $106 million by raising its income tax rate on millionaire households to 6.25% from 4.75%. In cities like Baltimore and Bethesda, which apply add-on income taxes, the top tax rate with the surcharge now reaches as high as 9.3%—fifth highest in the nation. Liberals said this was based on incomplete data and that rich Marylanders hadn’t fled the state. Well, the state comptroller’s office now has the final tax return data for 2008, the first year that the higher tax rates applied. The number of millionaire tax returns fell sharply to 5,529 from 7,898 in 2007, a 30% tumble. The taxes paid by rich filers fell by 22%, and instead of their payments increasing by $106 million, they fell by some $257 million. Yes, a big part of that decline results from the recession that eroded incomes, especially from capital gains. But there is also little doubt that some rich people moved out or filed their taxes in other states with lower burdens. One-in-eight millionaires who filed a Maryland tax return in 2007 filed no return in 2008. Some died, but the others presumably changed their state of residence. (Hint to the class warfare crowd: A lot of rich people have two homes.) A Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysis of federal tax return data on people who migrated from one state to another found that Maryland lost $1 billion of its net tax base in 2008 by residents moving to other states. …Thanks in part to its soak-the-rich theology, Maryland still has a $2 billion deficit… The state’s best hope is that politicians in other states are as self-destructive as those in Annapolis.

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A former reporter for the New York Times, Fox Butterfield, became a bit of a laughingstock in the 1990s for publishing a series of articles addressing the supposed quandary of how crime rates could be falling during periods when prison populations were expanding. A number of critics sarcastically explained that crimes rates were falling because bad guys were behind bars and invented the term “Butterfield Effect” to describe the failure of leftists to put 2 + 2 together. We now have a version of the Butterfiled Effect in tax policy. Recent IRS data show that rich people earned a record amount of income in 2007 and also faced their lowest effective tax rate in almost two decades. Proponents of soak-the-rich tax policy complain about these developments, as seen in the Bloomberg excerpt below, but they seem oblivious to the Laffer Curve insight that rich people earned more income in part because tax rates were lower. So if they penalize the rich with higher tax rates, as President Obama is proposing, they will be disappointed to discover that they collect considerably less revenue than predicted for the simple reason that wealthy taxpayers will respond by earning less taxable income.

The 400 highest-earning U.S. households reported an average of $345 million in income in 2007, up 31 percent from a year earlier, IRS statistics show. The average tax rate for the households fell to the lowest in almost 20 years. …The statistics underscore “two long-term trends: that income at the very top has exploded and their taxes have been cut dramatically,” said Chuck Marr, director of federal tax policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington-based research group that supports increasing taxes on high-income individuals.

As an aside, it’s also worth noting that the IRS tax-rate numbers are very misleading. The tax burden on the rich has dropped largely because of lower tax rates on dividends and capital gains. But when the IRS says upper-income taxpayers had an average tax rate of 16.6 percent, this does not include the other layers of tax that are imposed. The corporate income tax is 35 percent (just counting the federal level), for instance, so the actual average tax rate on these forms of income is far higher. Double taxation is counterproductive to growth and competitiveness, though, which is why the correct tax rate on dividends and capital gains is zero. For more on the Laffer Curve, this three-part video series addresses theory, evidence, and the biased revenue-estimating process.

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An earlier post revealed that higher tax rates in Maryland were backfiring, leading to less revenue from upper-income taxpayers. It seems New York politicians are running into a similar problem. According to an AP report, the state’s 100 richest taxpayers have paid $1 billion less than expected following a big tax hike. The story notes that several rich people have left the state, and all three examples are about people who have redomiciled in Florida, which has no state income tax. For more background information on why higher taxes on the rich do not necessarily raise revenue, see this three-part Laffer Curve video series (here, here, and here):

Early data from New York show the higher tax rates for the wealthy have yielded lower-than-expected state wealth. …Paterson said last week that revenues from the income tax increases and other taxes enacted in April are running about 20 percent less than anticipated. The concern about millionaire flight has prompted some states, including New York, New Jersey and California, to increase the highest tax rates only temporarily. …”People aren’t wedded to a geographic place as they once were. It’s a different world,” said New York Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch. He said last year’s surcharge on income taxes, set to last three years, won’t likely meet expectations. So far this year, half of about $1 billion in expected revenue from New York’s 100 richest taxpayers is missing. …State officials say they don’t know how much of the missing revenue is because any wealthy New Yorkers simply left. But at least two high-profile defectors have sounded off on the tax changes: Buffalo Sabres owner Tom Golisano, the billionaire who ran for governor three times and who was paying $13,000 a day in New York income taxes, and radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh. Golisano changed his official address to Florida, and Limbaugh, who also has a Florida home, announced earlier this year that he was relinquishing his home in Manhattan. Donald Trump told Fox News earlier this year that several of his millionaire friends were talking about leaving the state over the latest taxes. …And it’s not just the well-known leaving. Nancy Bell is moving her Science First manufacturer of scientific products from the Buffalo site her father founded in 1960 to Florida… “It was the higher tax brackets, the so-called millionaire’s tax” that forced the move, she said. “We feel we have to look to the future … I’m leaving wonderful, wonderful friends. It’s not our first choice. It’s our 100th.” Maryland enacted higher tax rates for wealthier residents in 2008 to boost revenues but income from those taxes is down 6.7 percent so far this year.

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