Behavioral Responses to State Income Taxation of High Earners: Evidence from California

77 Pages Posted: 3 Oct 2019 Last revised: 6 May 2022

See all articles by Joshua D. Rauh

Joshua D. Rauh

Stanford Graduate School of Business; Hoover Institution; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Ryan Shyu

Stanford Graduate School of Business

Date Written: May 5, 2022

Abstract

In November 2012, California voters passed increases to state marginal income tax rates of 1 to 3 percentage points for upper-income households. Drawing on the universe of California income tax filings, we present new findings about the effects of personal income taxation on household location choice and pre-tax income. On the extensive margin, an additional 0.8% of the California residential tax filing base whose 2012 income would have been in the new top tax bracket were no longer full year residents of California in 2013, relative to a baseline departure rate of 1.5%. To identify the intensive-margin impact of the California tax policy shift on the pre-tax earnings of high-income California residents who remain, we make use of high-earning out-of-state taxpayers who persistently file as California non-residents as a control sample. Using a synthetic difference-in-differences strategy, we estimate an intensive margin elasticity of income with respect to the marginal tax rate of 2.6-3.0. Among top-bracket California taxpayers, outward migration and behavioral responses by stayers together eroded 55.6% of the windfall tax revenues from the reform over the first three years it was in effect, with even larger effects in the final year of this period.

Keywords: income taxation, migration, high earners, state taxation, marginal tax rates, taxable income elasticity

JEL Classification: H24, H31, H71, H73, J22, J61, R23

Suggested Citation

Rauh, Joshua D. and Shyu, Ryan, Behavioral Responses to State Income Taxation of High Earners: Evidence from California (May 5, 2022). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3461513 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3461513

Joshua D. Rauh (Contact Author)

Stanford Graduate School of Business ( email )

655 Knight Way
Stanford, CA 94305-5015
United States

Hoover Institution ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305-6010
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Ryan Shyu

Stanford Graduate School of Business ( email )

Stanford, CA
United States

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