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Taxes, Regulations of Businesses and Evolution of Income Inequality in the US

Benjamin Pugsley () and Sebastian Dyrda ()

No 1463, 2017 Meeting Papers from Society for Economic Dynamics

Abstract: From 1980 to 2012 the share of U.S.~business receipts from businesses organized as pass-through entities (for example LLCs and S-corporations) rather than traditional C-corporations nearly triples following a sequence of tax reforms that reduced the tax rate of business income that "passes through" to an entrepreneur's individual income tax form. We show this shift in the pattern of business organization is economically significant. We propose a novel reduced form decomposition of data from the Survey of Consumer Finances, which reveals the increase in pass through entities explains over 50 percent of the increase in the share of pre-tax income for the top 1 percent of households. Importantly, this increase is not just accounting: there is an economic trade-off when choosing a legal form that affects the investment behavior of the entrepreneurs. We develop a heterogeneous agent equilibrium model with workers, entrepreneurs and endogenous choice of legal forms to capture a key trade-off between tax benefits and diversification of investment risk. We test the model using confidential firm-level microdata from the U.S.~ Census, and with the model calibrated to capture the actual firm dynamics across legal forms following several tax reform episodes, we quantify the contribution of tax reforms through the business reorganization channel on the evolution of income, wealth and consumption inequality of workers and entrepreneurs.

Date: 2017
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-ent and nep-pbe
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