Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Taxing the RIch at the State Level

Article in the weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal talks about states that rely on taxing the rich for most of their revenues suffered significant declines in revenue as a result of the last recession. Incomes of the wealthy tend to be more volatile than for other people. Much of this is due to the fact that most wealthy people have substantial income from equity markets. A sharp fall in the stock market reduces their incomes a lot. For example, the article reports that earnings of the top 1% of households in California fell by more than twice as much as the rest of the state's population. In New York the top 1% of earners paid 41% of the state's income taxes in 2007, compared to 25% in 1994. A result is that when the economy declines, state tax revenues decline even more. The federal government increasingly is relying on tax receipts from the top earners. The problems associated with volatility are less at the federal level, but increasing. Taxing the rich sounds good to many, but there are costs. Once again, there are not free lunches.

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