Research

Working Papers
Smith, Matt, Owen Zidar, and Eric Zwick. “Top Wealth in America: New Estimates and Implications for Taxing the Rich [Revised 10/2021]”. (Working Papers). Print. Manuscript.pdf Response_to_SZ_Comments.pdf
Forthcoming
Sarin, Natasha, et al.Rethinking How We Score Capital Gains Tax Reform”. Tax Policy and The Economy (Forthcoming). Print.Abstract

We argue the revenue potential from increasing tax rates on capital gains may be substantially greater than previously understood. First, many prior studies focus primarily on short-run taxpayer responses, and so miss revenue from gains that are deferred when rates change. Second, the rise of pass-throughs and index funds has shifted the composition of capital gains in recent years, such that the share of gains that are highly elastic to the tax rate has likely declined. If some components are less elastic, then their elasticity should get more weight when scoring big changes because they will comprise more of the remaining tax base. Third, closer parity to income rates would provide a backstop to rest of tax system. Fourth, additional base-broadening reforms, like eliminating stepped-up basis, making charitable giving a realization event, reforming donor advised funds, and limiting opportunity zones to places with the highest poverty rates, will decrease the elasticity of the tax base to rate changes. Overall, we do not think the prevailing assumption of many in the scorekeeping community—that raising rates to top ordinary income levels would raise little revenue—is warranted. A crude calculation illustrates that raising capital gains rates to ordinary income levels could raise hundreds of billions more revenue over a decade than other leading estimates suggest.

Manuscript.pdf Slides.pdf
Agersnap, Ole, and Owen Zidar. “The Tax Elasticity of Capital Gains and Revenue-Maximizing Rates”. American Economic Review: Insights, Accepted (Forthcoming). Print. Manuscript.pdf
Smith, Matt, et al.The Rise of Pass-Throughs and the Decline of the Labor Share”. American Economic Review: Insights, Accepted (Forthcoming). Print.Abstract

We study the coevolution of the fall in the U.S. corporate-sector labor share and the rise of business activity in tax-preferred pass-throughs. We find that reallocating activity to the form it would have taken prior to the Tax Reform Act of 1986 accounts for one third of the decline in the corporate-sector labor share between 1978 and 2017. Our adjustments are concentrated among mid-market firms in services, magnifying the role of the manufacturing sector and superstar firms in driving the remaining decline in the labor share. Our findings highlight the importance of tax policy when measuring factor shares.

Manuscript.pdf Prior_Version.pdf Data.xlsx
2020
Slattery, Cailin, and Owen Zidar. “Evaluating State and Local Business Tax Incentives”. Journal of Economic Perspectives 34.2.Spring (2020): , 34.2, Spring, 90-118. Print. Manuscript.pdf Appendix.pdf Slides.pdf Nontechnical_Summary.pdf
2019
Smith, Matthew, et al.Capitalists in the Twenty-First Century”. Quarterly Journal of Economics 2019: , 134.4, 1675–1745. Print. Manuscript.pdf Appendix.pdf Replication.zip
Kline, Pat, et al.Who Profits from Patents? Rent-sharing at Innovative Firms”. Quarterly Journal of Economics 134.3 (2019): , 134, 3, 1343–1404. Web. NBER WP 25245Abstract
This paper analyzes how patent-induced shocks to labor productivity propagate into worker compensation using a new linkage of US patent applications to US business and worker tax records. We infer the causal effects of patent allowances by comparing firms whose patent applications were initially allowed to those whose patent applications were initially rejected. To identify patents that are ex-ante valuable, we extrapolate the excess stock return estimates of Kogan et al. (2017) to the full set of accepted and rejected patent applications based on predetermined firm and patent application characteristics. An initial allowance of an ex-ante valuable patent generates substantial increases in firm productivity and worker compensation. By contrast, initial allowances of lower ex-ante value patents yield no detectable effects on firm outcomes. Patent allowances lead firms to increase employment, but entry wages and workforce composition are insensitive to patent decisions. On average, workers capture roughly 30 cents of every dollar of patent-induced surplus in higher earnings. This share is roughly twice as high among workers present since the year of application. These earnings effects are concentrated among men and workers in the top half of the earnings distribution, and are paired with corresponding improvements in worker retention among these groups. We interpret these earnings responses as reflecting the capture of economic rents by senior workers, who are most costly for innovative firms to replace.
Manuscript.pdf Appendix.pdf Replication.zip Corrigendum.pdf Slides.pdf
Fajgelbaum, Pablo, et al.State Taxes and Spatial Misallocation”. Review of Economic Studies 86.1 (2019): , 86, 1, 333–376. Web. NBER WP 21760Abstract

We study state taxes as a potential source of spatial misallocation in the United States. We build a spatial general equilibrium framework that incorporates salient features of the U.S. state tax system, and use changes in state tax rates between 1980 and 2010 to estimate the model parameters that determine how worker and firm location respond to changes in state taxes. We find that heterogeneity in state tax rates leads to aggregate welfare losses. In terms of consumption equivalent units, harmonizing state taxes increases worker welfare by 0.6 percent if government spending is held constant, and by 1.2 percent if government spending responds endogenously. Harmonization of state taxes within Census regions achieves most of these gains. We also use our model to study the general equilibrium effects of recently implemented and proposed tax reforms.

Manuscript.pdf Appendix.pdf
Zidar, Owen. “Tax Cuts for Whom? Heterogeneous Effects of Tax Changes on Growth and Employment”. Journal of Political Economy 127.3 (2019): , 127, 3, 1437-1472. Web. NBER WP 21035Abstract

This paper investigates how tax changes for different income groups affect aggregate economic activity. I construct a measure of who received (or paid for) tax changes in the postwar period using tax return data from NBER's TAXSIM. I aggregate each tax change by income group and state. Variation in the income distribution across U.S. states and federal tax changes generate variation in regional tax shocks that I exploit to test for heterogeneous effects. I find that the positive relationship between tax cuts and employment growth is largely driven by tax cuts for lower-income groups, and that the effect of tax cuts for the top 10% on employment growth is small.

Coverage: Washington PostBloombergForbesWSJMoneyweekWashington PostFinancial TimesWashington PostMarketwatchCongressional QuartelyInternational Business TimesWashtington Post, Reuters, Huffington PostInternational Business TimesThe New York Times (Economix)Capital IdeasWashington Post.

Manuscript.pdf Appendix.pdf Replication.zip
2018
Serrato, Juan Carlos Suárez, and Owen Zidar. “The Structure of State Corporate Taxation and its Impact on State Tax Revenues and Economic Activity”. Journal of Public Economics 167 (2018): , 167, 158-176. Web. Publisher's VersionAbstract
This paper documents facts about the state corporate tax structure—tax rates, base rules, and credits—and investigates its consequences for state tax revenue and economic activity. We present three main findings. First, tax base rules and credits explain more of the variation in state corporate tax revenues than tax rates do. Second, although states typically do not offset tax rate changes with base and credit changes, the effects of tax rate changes on tax revenue and economic activity depend on the breadth of the base. Third, as states have narrowed their tax bases, the relationship between tax rates and tax revenues has diminished. Overall, changes in state tax bases have made the state corporate tax system more favorable for corporations and are reducing the extent to which tax rate increases raise corporate tax revenue.
Manuscript.pdf Appendix.pdf Replication.zip
2016
Cooper, Michael, et al.Business in the United States: Who Owns it and How Much Tax Do They Pay?”. Tax Policy and the Economy. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2016. 90-128. Web. Publisher's VersionAbstract

"Pass-through” businesses like partnerships and S-corporations now generate over half of U.S. business income and account for much of the post-1980 rise in the top- 1% income share. We use administrative tax data from 2011 to identify pass-through business owners and estimate how much tax they pay. We present three findings. (1) Relative to traditional business income, pass-through business income is substantially more concentrated among high-earners. (2) Partnership ownership is opaque: 20% of the income goes to unclassifiable partners, and 15% of the income is earned in circularly owned partnerships. (3) The average federal income tax rate on U.S. pass- through business income is 19%|much lower than the average rate on traditional corporations. If pass-through activity had remained at 1980's low level, strong but straightforward assumptions imply that the 2011 average U.S. tax rate on total U.S. business income would have been 28% rather than 24%, and tax revenue would have been approximately $100 billion higher.

Links: Video of Presentation. Discussion with Jim PoterbaNBER Interview on Tax Policy and the Economy.
Coverage: NBER Digest Summary,WSJ,WSJ,Washington PostPBS, Fiscal TimesWSJ,PoliticoPoliticoBloombergNew York TimesLos Angeles TimesCapital IdeasNew York TimesNew York Times.

Manuscript.pdf Data.xlsx Appendix.pdf Slides.pdf
Serrato, Juan Carlos Suárez, and Owen Zidar. “Who Benefits from State Corporate Tax Cuts? A Local Labor Market Approach with Heterogeneous Firms”. American Economic Review 106.9 (2016): , 106, 9, 2582-2624. Web. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This paper estimates the incidence of state corporate taxes on the welfare of workers, landowners, and firm owners using variation in state corporate tax rates and apportionment rules. We develop a spatial equilibrium model with imperfectly mobile firms and workers. Firm owners may earn profits and be inframarginal in their location choices due to differences in location-specific productivities. We use the reduced-form effects of tax changes to identify and estimate incidence as well as the structural parameters governing these impacts. In contrast to standard open economy models, firm owners bear roughly 40 percent of the incidence, while workers and landowners bear 30-35 percent and 25-30 percent, respectively.

Coverage: NBER Digest SummaryWashington PostWSJ, Chicago Sun TimesCapital Ideas.

Manuscript.pdf Replication.zip Slides.pdf Appendix.pdf Reply_to_MMM-S_comment.pdf Weighted_Incidence_Shares.pdf