This paper uses administrative tax data to estimate top wealth in the United States. We build on the capitalization approach in Saez and Zucman (2016) while accounting for heterogeneity within asset classes when mapping income flows to wealth. Our approach reduces bias in wealth estimates because wealth and rates of return are correlated. Overall, wealth is very concentrated: the top 1% holds as much wealth as the bottom 90%. However, the “P90-99” class holds more wealth than either group after accounting for heterogeneity. Relative to a top 0.1% wealth share of more than 20% under equal returns, we estimate a top 0.1% wealth share of [15%] and find that the rise since 1980 in top wealth shares falls by [half]. Top portfolios depend less on fixed income and public equity, depend more on private equity and housing, and more closely match the composition reported in the SCF and estate tax returns. Our adjustments reduce mechanical revenue estimates from a wealth tax and top capital income shares in distributional national accounts, which depend on well-measured estimates of top wealth. Though the capitalization approach has advantages over other methods of estimating top wealth, we emphasize that considerable uncertainty remains inherent to the approach by showing the sensitivity of estimates to different assumptions.
We describe and evaluate state and local business incentives in the United States. We use new data sets at the firm and state level from Slattery (2019) to characterize these incentive policies, describe the selection process that determines which places and firms give and receive incentives, and then evaluate the economic consequences. In 2014, states spent between $5 and $216 per-capita on incentives for firms in the form of tax credits, job training, grant programs, and infrastructure spending. Recipients are usually large establishments in manufacturing, technology, and high-skilled service industries, and the average discretionary subsidy is $157M for 1,660 promised jobs. Firms accept deals from places that are richer, larger, and more urban than the average county, and poor places provide larger incentives and spend more per job. Comparing “winning” and runner-up locations for each deal in a bigger and more recent sample than in prior work, we find that average employment within the 3-digit industry of the deal increases by nearly 2000 jobs. There is some weak evidence of employment spillovers and establishment entry within the broader sector, but there is no detectable impact on overall county-level employment or economic growth. At the state level, increases in incentive spending tend not lead to increases in establishment entry as poorer places are more likely to provide larger incentives. Overall, while we find some evidence of direct employment gains from attracting a firm, we do not find strong evidence in support of local tax incentives increasing broader economic growth at the state and local level.
How important is human capital at the top of the U.S. income distribution? A primary source of top income is private "pass-through" business profit, which can include entrepreneurial labor income for tax reasons. This paper asks whether top pass-through profit mostly reflects human capital, defined as all inalienable factors embodied in business owners, rather than financial capital. Tax data linking 11 million firms to their owners show that top pass-through profit accrues to working-age owners of closely-held, mid-market firms in skill-intensive industries. Pass-through profit falls by three-quarters after owner retirement or premature death. Classifying three-quarters of pass-through profit as human capital income, we find that the typical top earner derives most of her income from human capital, not financial capital. Growth in pass- through profit is explained by both rising productivity and a rising share of value added accruing to owners.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.