Back in 2010, I shared a cartoon video making a very important point that there’s a big downside when class-warfare politicians abuse and mistreat highly productive taxpayers.
Simply stated, the geese with the golden eggs may fly away. And this isn’t just theory. As revealed by IRS data, taxpayer will move across borders to escape punitive taxation.
It’s harder to move across national borders, of course, but it happens. Record numbers of Americans have given up their passports, including some very high-profile rich people.
Some folks on the left like to argue that taxes don’t actually lead to behavioral changes. Whenever there’s evidence of migration from high-tax jurisdictions to low-tax jurisdictions, they argue other factors are responsible. The rich won’t move just because tax rates are high, they contend.
Here are some excerpts from a new Research Brief from the Cato Institute. Authored by economists from Harvard, the University of Chicago, and Italy’s Einaudi Institute, the article summarizes some scholarly research on how top-level inventors respond to differences in tax rates. Here’s what they did.
According to World Intellectual Property Organization data, inventors are highly mobile geographically with a migration rate of around 8 percent. But what determines their patterns of migration, and, in particular, how does tax policy affect migration? …Our research studies the effects of top income tax rates on the international migration of inventors, who are key drivers of technological progress. …We use a unique international data set on all inventors from the U.S. and European patent offices to track the international location of inventors since the 1970s. …We combine these inventor data with international top effective marginal tax rates data. Particularly interesting are “superstar” inventors, those with the most abundant and most valuable innovations. …We define superstar inventors as those in the top 1 percent of the quality distribution, and similarly construct the top 1–5 percent, the top 5–10 percent, and subsequent quality brackets. The evidence presented suggests that the top 1 percent superstar inventors are well into the top tax bracket.And here’s what they ascertained about the behavioral response of the superstar inventors.
We start by documenting a negative correlation between the top tax rate and the share of top quality foreign inventors who locate in a country, as well as the share of top quality domestic inventors who remain in their home country. …We find that the superstar top 1 percent inventors are significantly affected by top tax rates when choosing where to locate. …the elasticity of the number of foreign top 1 percent superstar inventors to the net-of-tax rate is much larger, with corresponding values of 0.63, 0.85, and 1.04. The far greater elasticity for foreign relative to domestic inventors makes sense since, when a given country adjusts its top tax rate, it potentially affects inventor migration from all other countries.And they point out a very obvious lesson.
…if the economic contribution of these key agents is important, their migratory responses to tax policy might represent a cost to tax progressivity. … An additional relevant consideration is that inventors may have strong spillover effects on their geographically close peers, making it even more important to attract and retain them domesticallyAnd don’t forget the research I shared last year showing that superstar entrepreneurs are more likely to be found in lower-tax jurisdictions.
P.S. Seems to me, given that upper-income taxpayers shoulder most of the nation’s fiscal burden, that our leftist friends should be applauding the rich rather than demonizing them.
P.P.S. Let’s close with some more election-related humor.
Saw this very clever item on Twitter today. (Go to the original to see this picture. RK)