Tax Policy

Tax Policy

Research

Thomas Stratmann, Andreea Militaru, Rachel Reese | Aug 21, 2014
State and local governments often turn to increases in sales taxes to generate added revenue. Estimates of fresh revenue from the higher tax tend to be overly optimistic, partly because the number of sales tax exemptions tends to rise with the rising tax rate.
Pavel A. Yakovlev | Jul 10, 2014
This study investigates the relationship between various measures of economic performance and taxation in a longitudinal panel of American states.
Christopher Coyne, Lotta Moberg | May 16, 2014
The governments of American states often attempt to incentivize businesses to locate within their borders by offering targeted benefits to particular industries and companies. These benefits come in many forms, including business tax credits for investments, property tax abatements, and reductions in the sales tax. Despite good intentions, policymakers often overlook the unseen and unintended negative consequences of targeted-benefit policies. This paper analyzes two major downsides of these policies: (1) they lead to a misallocation of resources, and (2) they encourage rent-seeking and thus cronyism. We argue that these costs, which are often longer-term and not readily observable at the time the targeted benefits are granted, may very well outweigh any possible short-term economic benefits.
Jeremy Horpedahl, Harrison Searles | Mar 06, 2014
Removing the federal tax deduction for state and local taxes would make taxes more equitable throughout the nation, as both high-tax and low-tax states are treated equally by the federal government. It may also provide an efficiency boost for states and localities, as they abandon some services that could be better provided by private companies. The removal of this deduction would also allow federal marginal tax rates to be cut across the board, providing a secondary boost to the economy while still remaining revenue-neutral at the federal level.
Justin M. Ross | Feb 25, 2014
The primer begins with a short discussion of criteria for evaluating tax revenue options (i.e., economic efficiency, equity, transparency, collectability, and revenue production). It proceeds to an overview of the different types of taxes employed at various levels of government and an evaluation of each tax against these criteria. The tax categories included here are individual income taxes, consumption taxes, real property taxes, and corporate income taxes.
Andreea Militaru, Thomas Stratmann | Jan 07, 2014
We analyze the choice politicians face when seeking votes from groups that lobby for sales tax rate decreases or from groups that lobby for certain tax exemptions, given the constraint that each politician wants to raise a certain amount of revenue. Using the application of sales taxes and sales tax exemptions we develop a model predicting a positive relationship between the number of sales tax exemptions and the sales tax rate. We find support for this hypothesis. A one-unit increase in the number of exemptions is associated with an increase between 0.10 and 0.25 percent in the sales tax rate. Our results provide one explanation of why estimates of revenue increases generated by a sales tax increase are often too optimistic.

Testimony & Comments

Research Summaries & Toolkits

Expert Commentary

Oct 20, 2014

What would your family do with an extra $3,000 this year? Use the money for college education? Take more vacation? Pay off debt? Based on my research, if state governments eliminated all special privileges in their tax systems and lowered tax rates an equivalent amount, the average family could save thousands of dollars annually – all without any reduction in government services.
Sep 02, 2014

With summer nearly over, and school years starting again across the county, many states are declaring this time of year a holiday season of sorts: a “tax holiday” season. This year, 17 states will create tax-free holidays to exempt many back-to-school items from state sales tax.
Aug 18, 2014

Several states cut a wide variety of taxes this summer. Indiana and Rhode Island, for example, cut the conventional corporate tax. Idaho, meanwhile, took an unconventional route by cutting sales taxes on software purchased through “the cloud.” When revenues are on the rise, some states choose to lower taxes, while others prefer to spend the tax windfall. Both moves could be wrong.
Jun 23, 2014

Simple tweaks to Indiana’s tax system will be insufficient to attract leading firms and spur the success of those at home; reforms must be part of a well-planned growth strategy. If the Hoosier State wants to position itself as a global competitor, its leaders must approve a comprehensive plan that lightens the tax burden on citizens and businesses in a way that allows government to serve the people by performing its core functions.
Feb 19, 2014

The Academy Awards are nearly upon us, and that means long-winded acceptance speeches from actors and directors, filled with thanks for all the people who have helped them along the way. Listen closely to those speeches. Because they should really be thanking you.
Aug 05, 2013

As back-to-school shopping gets under way, many states are offering shoppers a sales-tax-free weekend in an attempt to help consumers and retailers alike. However, researchers at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University have found that the tax holidays do little to help the economy and allow government officials to favor some business and industries over others.

Charts

State and local governments often increase sales taxes to generate additional revenue; however, projections of added revenue tend to be over-optimistic, in part because sales tax exemptions tend to increase along with the tax rate. These charts illustrate the relationship between average sales taxes and exemptions among the states (five states without sales taxes were removed, as was Hawaii because of its complex tiered system).

Experts

Podcasts

Jason Sorens | July 03, 2013
Jason Sorens Discusses Freedom in the 50 States on American Radio Journal

Recent Events

Join us to discuss these questions: • Do TELs Limit Budget Growth? • What do states need to know before implementing a TEL? • How would a TEL affect your state? Matthew Mitchell, Research Fellow, Mercatus Center at George Mason University Assembly Member Micah Kellner, New York 65th District Nick Kasprak, Programmer and Analyst, Tax Foundation…

Media Clippings

Matthew Mitchell | Jul 28, 2013
The Governor’s Opportunity Fund — just one of numerous economic-incentive programs operated by the state — is something like a slush fund the governor can use to “secure a business location or expansion project.”…
Matthew Mitchell | Jul 11, 2013
[A]s my research has emphasized, privileges lead to a host of economic problems because they undermine competition, encourage wasteful privilege-seeking, and put politicians rather than consumers in charge of allocating capital and resources.
Jason J. Fichtner | Dec 05, 2012
Jason Fichtner cited at The Washington Times.
Eileen Norcross | Jul 11, 2012
Eileen Norcross is quoted in the guardian discussing the straining budgets of state and local governments in the U.S.
Antony Davies | Feb 19, 2012
Antony Davies explains why Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval's economic development plan is a step in the wrong direction.
' '