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Design Changes to the SOI Public Use File (PUF) (Research Report)
Victoria BryantJohn L. CzajkaJim NunnsGeorgia Ivsin

The Statistics of Income (SOI) Division of IRS prepares a publicly available file, the Public Use File, from its annual sample of income tax returns. The PUF is a critical data source for tax policy analysis. To insure taxpayer confidentiality, SOI applies disclosure avoidance procedures to the PUF. In 2012, SOI established a Working Group to perform an in-depth review of these procedures and of the analytical usefulness of the PUF. This paper describes the revised PUF design recommended by the Working Group, and how the design changes improve both disclosure avoidance and the PUF’s analytical usefulness.

Published: 12/18/14
Availability:   PDF


Net Capital Gains Across Zip Codes (Policy Briefs)
Benjamin H. HarrisLucie Parker

This brief examines net capital gains realizations by utilizing zip-code level data on taxes and demographics. This data can help shed light on direct beneficiaries of preferential capital gains tax rates beyond the standard distributional tables based solely on income. In particular, this brief highlights the extent to which the benefits are concentrated among zip codes, and the limited benefits of preferred rates for certain geographic regions. We focus on the relationship between capital gains and Adjusted Gross Income (AGI), the demographic characteristics of zip codes with a particularly high percent of tax returns reporting capital gains, and the average capital gains reported across counties.

Published: 12/12/14
Availability:   PDF


Factsheet: Beneficiaries of Tax Expenditures Across Zip Codes (Fact Sheet / Data at a Glance)
Aurite WermanBenjamin H. Harris

This fact sheet summarizes the key conclusions from a series of briefs aimed at contributing to the knowledge of select tax expenditures—the EITC, MID, and preferential rates on capital gains—by analyzing zip code-level tax data. In particular, the goal of the research was to better characterize various economic, demographic, and geographic characteristics associated with select tax expenditures. Largely due to data constraints, these relationships have received little attention to date.

Published: 12/12/14
Availability:   PDF


The Mortgage Interest Deduction Across Zip Codes (Policy Briefs)
Benjamin H. HarrisLucie Parker

This brief examines characteristics of the mortgage interest deduction by utilizing zip-code level data on taxes and demographics. In the following sections, we focus on the relationship between the mortgage interest deduction and Adjusted Gross Income, the demographic characteristics of zip codes with particularly high proportions of taxpayers claiming the mortgage interest deduction, and the variation in MID claiming across counties.

Published: 12/05/14
Availability:   PDF


EITC Claiming Across Zip Codes (Research Brief)
Benjamin H. HarrisLucie Parker

This brief provides a fresh look at the role of the EITC by utilizing zip-code level data on taxes and demographics. In the following sections, we focus on the relationship between EITC claiming rates (i.e., the percent of tax returns receiving the EITC) and poverty rates, the demographic characteristics of zip codes with high EITC claiming rates, and the variation in EITC claiming rates and average EITC amount cross counties.

Published: 12/02/14
Availability:   PDF


The Effects of the Taxation of Social Security Benefits on Older Workers' Income and Claiming Decisions (Research Report)
Leonard E. BurmanNorma B. CoeKevin PierceLiu Tian

Social Security benefits are taxed under a complex regime that raises marginal effective tax rates by up to 85 percent, which could discourage the labor supply of older workers and affect the decision to claim benefits. Using a nonparametric graphical methodology, this paper investigates whether older taxpayers reduce income to avoid the tax. While previous research found that the labor supply of older workers is significantly affected by the Social Security earnings test, we fin little evidence of a response to benefit taxation in a large panel of data compiled from individual income tax and information returns. Similarly, while taxation of benefits provides and incentive for many to delay claiming, we find no evidence of such an effect. Overall, the findings suggest that older taxpayers have little understanding of the rules governing Social Security benefit taxation.

Published: 12/01/14
Availability:   PDF


Better Tax Policy Requires Better Data (Presentation)
Leonard E. Burman

In his 2011 NTA presidential address, Len Burman argued that tax policy in the US is stymied by lack of high quality data. He argues that the states should be encouraged to experiment and collect the data necessary to evaluate the effects of policies such as tax subsidies for saving. He also argues for much wider access to available administrative tax and information return data, which are currently available only within the IRS and a few government agencies, with suitable safeguards in place to protect taxpayer privacy.

Published: 12/01/14
Availability:   PDF


Angel Investor Tax Credits (Article/Tax Facts)
Norton Francis

High net worth investors can reduce the cost of an investment in 29 states by claiming an "angel investor" tax credit. In most states, the credit is worth more than 25 percent of the investments and can be transferred to another taxpayer if it exceeds the investor's liability. States hope the credit will develop high tech clusters and generate economic activity.

Published: 11/25/14
Availability:   PDF


Tax Policy and Volunteer Labor (Research Brief)
Katherine Toran

Volunteers are extremely valuable to the charitable sector: Urban Institute researchers estimated the value of their labor at $163 billion in 2013. Though charitable contributions can be deducted from income taxes, volunteers cannot deduct the value of their labor. By economic consensus, donations of time and money are complements, meaning when people increase monetary donations they also tend to volunteer more hours. This Tax Policy and Charities brief explores how potential ways to create a tax deduction for volunteer labor would affect charitable donations, as well as the supply of volunteer labor.

Published: 11/11/14
Availability:   PDF


Reforming State Gas Taxes: How States Are (and Are Not) Addressing an Eroding Tax Base (Research Brief)
Richard C. Auxier

The federal government and most states have per-unit gas taxes. Because they tax gallons purchased, and not a percentage of purchase price, revenues are falling across the country as Americans buy less gas. If states do not want to cut transportation projects they now have to increase tax rates or find new revenue sources. This brief examines the national trends affecting gas tax revenues and describes what different states are doing (or not doing) in response to an eroding tax base.

Published: 11/06/14
Availability:   PDF

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