Corporate Tax Cuts Increase Income Inequality

by Suresh Nallareddy, Ethan Rouen, and Juan Carlos Suárez Serrato

Overview — This paper examines corporate tax reform by estimating the causal effect of state corporate tax cuts on top income inequality. Results suggest that, while corporate tax cuts increase investment, the gains from this investment are concentrated on top earners, who may also exploit additional strategies to increase the share of total income that accrues to the top 1 percent.

Author Abstract

This paper studies the effects of corporate tax changes on income inequality. Using state corporate tax rate changes as a setting, we show that cutting state corporate tax rates leads to increases in income inequality. This result is robust to using regression and matching approaches, and to controlling for a host of potential confounders. Contrary to the effects of tax cuts, we find no effects of tax increases on income inequality at the state level. We then use data from the IRS Statistics of Income to explore the mechanism behind the rise in income inequality. We find tax cuts lead to higher reported capital income and a decrease in wage and salary income. These effects are concentrated among top earners, and we find no effects for those reporting less than $200,000 in income. This result provides evidence that one mechanism for the relation between tax cuts and inequality is that wealthy individuals shift their income to reduce taxes while others do not. Finally, we explore the effects of corporate tax cuts on capital investment using data from the Annual Survey of Manufactures. We find that tax cuts lead to an increase in real investment, suggesting a trade-off between investment and inequality at the state level.

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