Government Tax Systems

Government Tax Systems

Question 1

The report indicates that most state and local government tax systems are regressive because they place higher tax burdens on low-income earners as opposed to high-income earners. It claims that “the vast majority of state tax systems are regressive . . . Further, those in highest-income quintile pay a small share . . . while the bottom . . . pays more” (ITEP 3). While they enable states to collect huge sums of money from the majority of the people, they leave poor and middle-income earners with little to save for the future. In this case, most of the tax systems in the country focus on sales taxes that are regressive because they levy taxes on flat rate irrespective of whether the commodity is basic, such as bread, or luxury, such as Bentley (Young 18). Furthermore, most of the tax systems in the country target income spent on consumer goods on which the majority of the poor people spend all their incomes. As such, the poor are taxed heavier than the rich who save their money rather than spending it.

Based on the report, income taxes are the most progressive types of taxes because effective tax rates go up as incomes rise. Accordingly, on average, low-income families in the country pay about 0.04 percent of their incomes, high-income families spend about 4.6 percent, while middle-income families pay about 2.1 percent (ITEP 12). In contrast, excise and sales taxes are the most regressive types of taxes because low-income families that spend all of their incomes pay more of these taxes. The report claims that they pay almost eight times of these types of taxes than what wealthy families pay whereas middle-income families pay five times of what wealthy families pay.

Excise and sales taxes are regressive primarily because the majority of poor people spend all their incomes every year. As such, they do not save, thus ending up paying higher taxes than rich people who save a lot of their money. On the other hand, income taxes are progressive because effective tax rates increase with income levels. As a consequence, people who earn higher incomes pay higher taxes than those who earn low incomes, and this helps to offset some effects of the regressive local and state taxes. In comparison to other states, Massachusetts ranks as the 30th state with the most unfair local and state tax system in the country. Income taxes are the most unequal followed by local and state taxes, which are charged on a flat rate rather than on a progressive basis.  

Question 2

Several states in the country have proposed to make their tax systems more progressive by raising income tax rates on high-income earners. Nonetheless, critics argue that this strategy would drive high earners to move to low tax states. Conversely, research indicates that low income earners have the highest migration rate. For example, a report documented by Young suggests that people who make about $10,000 every year migrate at the rate of 4.5 percent in comparison to millionaires who migrate at the rate of 2.4 percent (22). As such, low-income earners, as they seek greener pastures, move about two times as often as millionaires; hence, it is less likely that increasing income tax rates levied on high-income earners would force them to move to low tax states. Although the rate of migration among millionaires who form part of high earners is relatively low in comparison to the rate of low-income earners, research indicates that part of them move from one state to the other on a tax benefits basis. In this regards, Young claims that about 47 percent of millionaires move to low tax states in comparison to 32 percent who move to countries with high tax rates and 21 percent who move to tax neutral states. While these statistics suggest that raising tax rates among high earners might force them to move to low tax states, other factors might influence such decisions, such as marital status and favorable weather conditions.  

Concerning weather conditions, some of the millionaires settle in Florida to access the Caribbean Sea, which is “the Hawaii of the East Coast, with similar amounts of warmth and sunshine” (Young 27). As regards marital status, married millionaires may be unlikely to move from one state to the other because of their children and other important things that matter to them. In contrast, single millionaires might move from one state to the other easily. For instance, Saverin was able to change his nationality and move to Singapore in 2012 because “he was single and had no children” (Young 35). He managed to change his American nationality because he did not have a life partner and children to bother his migration decision.      

On the same note, Tannenwald, Shure, and Johnson claim that tax flight among millionaires is a myth rather than a fact. In any case, a majority of the people relocate from one part of the country to the other primarily to look for new jobs, better climate, and cheaper housing.  Young supports this assertion when he claims that the rate of migration among millionaire is relatively low because they move less than the members of the general public who are poor (21). To demystify this myth, Tannenwald, Shure, and Johnson added that other factors influence decisions about relocating from one state to the other. They particularly claim that in contrast to the claim that lower tax rates among millionaires attract the majority of these people to Florida, lower housing prices contribute significantly to migration into Florida. To support their claim, they argue that before 2000, there was an influx of US migrants into Florida, but in the latter half of the 2000s, the migration trend reversed due to higher housing prices that saw the majority of the people sell their houses. They argue that “interstate tax differentials typically equal just . . . points of income, when all forms of taxation are taken into account”, but “in contrast, moving in search of cheaper housing . . . can have a bigger payoff” (Tannenwald, Shure and Johnson 4). The argument is that tax differences between different states may not be an impetus for millionaires to migrate like cheaper housing might encourage them to move to other states. For this reason, one would not expect millionaires to relocate from one state to the other to benefit from tax cuts as much as other factors, such as cheaper housing, influence such decisions.

Work cited

ITEP. Who pays? A distributional analysis of the tax systems in all 50 states. Web. October 2018. https://itep.org/wp-content/uploads/whopays-ITEP-2018.pdf

Tannenwald, Robert, Shure, Jon, and Johnson Nicholas. Tax flight is a myth: Higher state taxes bring more revenue, not more migration. Center on budget and policy priorities. 2011.

Young, Cristobal. The myth of millionaire tax flight. How place still matters for the rich. Stanford: Stanford university press. 2018.


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