Entries by Greg Sullivan

The SALT Cap: An Accelerator for Tax Flight from Massachusetts

After the authors of the proposed graduated tax in Massachusetts submitted their proposal for legislative approval in 2017, the federal government placed a $10,000 limitation of deductibility of state and local taxes on federal tax returns. This unforeseen change in the federal tax code had the effect of turning what would have been a 58 percent increase in average state income tax payments among Massachusetts millionaires, from $160,786 to $254,355, into what is essentially a 147 percent increase when the federal SALT limitation is included in the calculation. This substantial change should be taken into consideration by voters when they contemplate approving the surtax proposal.

Are Massachusetts taxes regressive? A common argument for a graduated income tax relies on a deeply flawed and outdated study 

Advocates of the proposed surtax paint a picture of the Massachusetts tax system as highly regressive. They fail to mention that ITEP, the organization that produced the data upon which they rely, rated Massachusetts as having a more progressive tax system than 29 other states. ITEP fails to adequately explain their model’s treatment of the tax incidence of sales, excise, and property taxes, and they exclude a number of other aspects of the tax code that make it seem artificially regressive.

A Grim Distinction: Massachusetts would have top marginal short-term capital gains tax rate in the U.S. under the proposed graduated income tax

This report finds that, under a graduated income tax, Massachusetts’ top marginal short-term capital gains tax rate would be the highest in the nation, exacerbating a tax and regulatory environment that has made it hard for day traders and other investors to contribute to Massachusetts’ economy. By imposing a 4 percent income on all annual income over $1 million, including capital gains, the graduated income tax would penalize the capital formation that is the key to long-term growth and higher living standards for all in the Commonwealth.

The Graduated Income Tax Trap: A Tax on Small Businesses

This policy brief finds that the state constitutional amendment promoted by the Massachusetts Teachers Association and the Service Employees International Union to add a 4 percent surtax to all annual income above $1 million will adversely impact a significant number of pass-through businesses, ultimately slowing the Commonwealth’s economic recovery from COVID-19.

The Great Mismatch: The graduated income tax proposal’s gravely flawed escalation factor

The state constitutional amendment proposed by the Service Employees International Union and the Massachusetts Teachers Association to add a 4 percent surtax to all annual income above $1 million purports to use cost-of-living-based bracket adjustments as a safeguard that will ensure only millionaires will pay. But historic income growth trends suggest that bracket creep will cause many non-millionaires to be subject to the surtax over time, according to this report, “The Great Mismatch: The graduated income tax proposal’s gravely flawed escalation factor.”

Missing the Mark on Wealth Migration: Past Studies Drastically Undercounted Millionaires

Advocates of a constitutional amendment that would apply a 4 percent tax on all annual individual income over $1 million argue that similar taxes in other states have had little impact on the migration of millionaires, citing the research of Cornell University Associate Professor Cristobal Young, which suggests that “millionaires’ taxes” enacted in other states similar to the one being proposed in Massachusetts have had little impact on millionaire mobility. This paper demonstrates that he drastically undercounts millionaires, and outlines several ways in which he and tax advocates underestimate the number of people who will at some point in their lives be subject to a so-called millionaire’s tax and tax flight trends.

Lessons for Massachusetts from California’s “blank check” tax on high earners

Advocates claim a proposed 4 percent surtax on high earners will raise nearly $2 billion per year for education and transportation, but similar tax hikes in other states resulted in highly discretionary rather than targeted spending. That same result or worse is possible in Massachusetts because during the 2019 constitutional convention state legislators rejected — not just one, but two — proposed amendments requiring that the new revenues be directed to these purposes. After a 2012 tax hike in California aimed to increase education investments, the state legislature dedicated little more than the minimum required by law to education and redirected the majority of the funds to general government operations. The result was a soaring state payroll.

Do The Wealthy Migrate Away From High-Tax States? A Comparison of Adjusted Gross Income Changes in Massachusetts and Florida

Massachusetts had a net outflow of $20.7 billion in adjusted gross income (AGI) between 1993 and 2018. The biggest beneficiaries of the wealth that fled the Commonwealth were Florida, which captured 47.5 percent of it, and New Hampshire, which captured 26.1 percent. Between 2012 and 2018, Florida saw a net AGI inflow of $88.9 billion. Affluent taxpayers are responsible for an outsized proportion of state tax revenue. The data also show a strong correlation between state taxes and migration. States like Florida and New Hampshire that have no state income tax have seen a net inflow of AGI from higher-tax states like Massachusetts. 

Connecticut’s Dangerous Game: How the Nation’s Wealthiest State Scared Off Businesses and Worsened Its Fiscal Crisis

This report presents evidence that Connecticut’s embrace of an aggressive tax policy to pay for ballooning government expenditures — including a sharp corporate tax rate increase — has been a major driver in the loss of bedrock employers. Higher corporate tax rates, combined with hikes in the personal income tax and, especially, the estate tax, also appear to be a factor driving away a growing number of the state’s wealthiest residents.

The Long View: A Public Policy Roadmap for Saving Small Businesses During the COVID-19 Recovery Period

As the initial economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed, a new study from Pioneer Institute finds that governments must continue to provide short-term relief to stabilize small businesses as they simultaneously consider longer-term reforms to hasten and bolster recovery – all while facing a need to shore up public sector revenues.

Public Policy Guide for Economic Recovery from COVID-19 in the Retail and Hospitality Sectors

This new guide to economic recovery in the retail and hospitality industries published by Pioneer Institute calls for the federal and state governments to consider consumption-based refundable tax credits for brick and mortar businesses; the federal government to conduct a detailed study of the costs and benefits of suspending employer-side payroll taxes; businesses to pay special attention to developing and marketing their cleanliness, hygiene and contactless procedures; and third-party customer review sites to include comments about the implementation of COVID safety measures to provide options and reassurance to safety-minded consumers.

As the COVID-19 Pandemic Spurs Consumer Shift to E-Commerce, the Massachusetts Sales Tax Collection System Deserves Renewed Scrutiny

At a time when state tax revenues are plummeting, a plan to modernize sales tax collection could get money into state coffers more quickly. This report analyzes the merits of a two-part proposal Governor Baker included in his January state budget submission to streamline state sales tax collections. Sullivan and Mikula find that the first part of Baker’s plan makes sense and is entirely feasible because advances in electronic data processing and electronic funds transfer have eliminated the need for protracted remittance timetables.

The past seven weeks of Massachusetts unemployment claims total 25.8 percent of the civilian workforce.

The U.S. Department of Labor released its weekly report on jobless claims Thursday morning at 8:30 a.m., reporting that Massachusetts received 55,448 initial unemployment insurance (UI) claims during the week ended May 2. This brings the total of regular UI claims filed in Massachusetts since March 14, the beginning of the unemployment surge, to 781,110. 

The past six weeks of Massachusetts unemployment claims total 24.0 percent of civilian workforce

The U.S. Department of Labor released its weekly report on jobless claims this morning at 8:30 a.m., reporting that Massachusetts received 70,714 initial unemployment insurance (UI) claims during the week ended April 25. This brings the total of unemployment claims filed in Massachusetts since March 14, the beginning of the unemployment surge, to 725,018. 

State Ranking: Michigan, Hawaii, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and Nevada have been hardest-hit by COVID-19 jobless claims so far. Massachusetts ranks as 9th hardest-hit.

The U.S. Department of Labor reported today that in the week ended April 4, the advance number of seasonally-adjusted initial jobless claims was 6,606,000. This follows 6,867,000 initial claims filed in the week ended March 28 and 3,307,000 in the week ended March 21.

The Federal Coronavirus Relief Act impact on Massachusetts

Congress has passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, providing $2.2 trillion in financial relief to laid-off workers, hospitals, and distressed industries. The bill provides an extra $600 per week in unemployment benefits to each recipient for up to four months and extends benefits to previously ineligible categories of workers, including independent contractors, those with limited work history, and self-employed persons.

Congress should fix aid, provide block grants

This op-ed by Greg Sullivan and Charlie Chieppo appeared in the Boston Business Journal on March 27, 2020. While passage of the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Actis surely good news, it will come nowhere near fully addressing the pandemic’s impact on the commonwealth’s finances. Large block grants would be the best way to provide states with much needed relief. Thanks to the virus, state revenue sources from sales taxes to pension fund receipts are plummeting. At the same time, expenses connected to the outbreak are rising sharply. Just look at unemployment insurance. Weekly state unemployment claims rose from 4,712to 147,995in just two weeks. And while the new stimulus bill will add $600 to each unemployment check for up to four months and […]

Accountability for casino revenue targets needs to be “in the cards”

Co-authored by Andrew Mikula and Greg Sullivan Everett’s Encore Boston Harbor has entered its third quarter of business with two pieces of good news. First, there has been renewed interest in the construction of a footbridge connecting the Orange Line to the shimmering resort casino, a major step towards improving accessibility and reducing traffic congestion in the vicinity. Second, USA Today named Encore as one of the best casinos outside of Las Vegas.   But there is also some bad news. The most recent Massachusetts Gaming Commission revenue report indicates that state revenue from Encore Boston Harbor will fall far short of the $201 million that the casino owner projected for fiscal year 2020 when it was vying for a […]