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Author: Harris, Benjamin H.

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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


Who Benefits from Asset-Building Tax Subsidies? (Fact Sheet / Data at a Glance)
C. Eugene SteuerleBenjamin H. HarrisSigne-Mary McKernanCaleb QuakenbushCaroline Ratcliffe

Tax subsidies for asset building totaled $384 billion in 2013, with the vast majority going toward subsidizing homeownership and retirement saving. This factsheet summarizes distributional estimates of major tax subsidies for homeownership, retirement saving, and higher education. Low- and moderate-income households benefit very little from these subsidies. For example, about 70 percent of the mortgage interest deduction and employer-sponsored retirement plan subsidies go to the top 20 percent of tax payers while the bottom 20 percent receive less than one percent. Upper-income households, which likely require less incentive to save, may merely shift assets from unsubsidized to subsidized accounts.

Published: 09/24/14
Availability:   PDF


Flattening Tax Incentives for Retirement Saving (Research Report)
Barbara ButricaBenjamin H. HarrisPamela PerunC. Eugene Steuerle

Under current law, a large share of tax benefits for retirement saving accrues to high-income employees. We simulate the short- and long-term effect of three policy options for flattening tax incentives and increasing retirement savings for low- and middle-income workers. Our results show that reducing 401(k) contribution limits increases taxes for high-income taxpayers; expanding the saver's credit raises saving incentives and lower taxes for low- and middle-income taxpayers; and replacing the exclusion for retirement saving contributions with a 25 percent refundable credit benefits primarily low- and middle-income taxpayers, and raises taxes and reduces retirement assets for high-income taxpayers.

Published: 06/30/14
Availability:   PDF


Student Loans Rising: An Overview of Causes, Consequences, and Policy Options (Article)
William G. GaleBenjamin H. HarrisBryant RenaudKatherine Rodihan

The share of households with student loans rose from 9 percent in 1989 to 19 percent by 2010, while inflation-adjusted median student debt rose by more than 50 percent. Rising debt burdens can affect numerous outcomes. For those in school, loans may affect completion rates, choice of major, and academic performance. After students graduate, debt can impact career choice and pursuit of a graduate education. Loan burdens can also affect decisions later in life, such as homeownership, marriage and saving. The costs of having higher student loan debt should be weighed against the well-documented economic returns to acquiring more education.

Published: 05/14/14
Availability: HTML | PDF


Tax Subsidies for Asset Development: An Overview and Distributional Analysis (Research Report)
Benjamin H. HarrisC. Eugene SteuerleSigne-Mary McKernanCaleb QuakenbushCaroline Ratcliffe

The federal government channels much of its support for asset building through the tax code. Asset-building tax subsidies, primarily for homeownership and retirement saving, totaled $384 billion in 2013. This report reviews federal tax expenditures for housing, retirement, savings, business development, and higher education. We highlight research on the effectiveness of and justifications for these expenditures, find limited efficacy in their current form, and note possible adjustments. We estimate the distributional effect of major tax expenditures and find that the vast majority of subsidies benefit the top two income quintiles. Last, we review prospective policies such as matched saving accounts and automatic enrollment.

Published: 03/07/14
Availability:   PDF


New Perspectives on Homeownership Tax Incentives  (Research Report)
Amanda EngBenjamin H. HarrisC. Eugene Steuerle

This report presents three tax reforms designed to promote homeownership through a channel other than the deductibility of mortgage interest. These reforms include a first-time homebuyer tax credit, a refundable tax credit for property taxes paid, and an annual flat amount tax credit for homeowners—all paid for by limiting current tax expenditures for housing. Although far from perfect, these reforms would provide a more efficient and equitable allocation of housing subsidies. Our simulations show that relative to existing incentives, each policy would raise home prices and make the tax code more progressive.

Published: 01/06/14
Availability:   PDF


Property Taxes in the United States (Article/Tax Facts)
Benjamin H. HarrisBrian David Moore

This Tax Fact examines the property tax burden as a share of home value in the United States. Most counties have property tax burdens between 0.5 and 1.5 percent of home value. As a share of home values, counties in the Northeast, parts of the Midwest, and Texas tend to have higher property taxes relative to other counties.

Published: 12/04/13
Availability:   PDF

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