Did the 2017 Tax Reform Discriminate against Blue State Voters?

David Altig, Alan Auerbach, Patrick Higgins, Darryl Koehler,
Laurence Kotlikoff, Michael Leiseca, Ellyn Terry, and Victor Ye
Working Paper 2019-07
April 2019

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The Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA) made significant changes to corporate and personal federal income taxation, including limiting the SALT (state and local property, income and sales taxes) deductibility to $10,000. States with high SALT tend to vote Democratic. This paper estimates the differential effect of the TCJA on red- and blue-state taxpayers and investigates the importance of the SALT limitation to this differential. We calculate the effect of permanent implementation of the TCJA on households using The Fiscal Analyzer: a life-cycle, consumption-smoothing program incorporating all major federal and state fiscal policies. We find that the average percentage increase in remaining lifetime spending under the TCJA is 1.6 percent in red states versus 1.3 percent in blue states. Among the richest 10 percent of households, this differential is larger. Rich households in red states enjoyed a 2.0 percent increase compared to a 1.2 percent increase among the rich in blue-state households. This gap is driven almost entirely by the limitation on the SALT deduction. Excluding the SALT limitation from the TCJA results in a spending gain of 2.6 percent for rich red-state households compared to 2.7 percent for rich blue-state households.

JEL classification: D15, D31, D72, E62, H20, H22, H71

Key words: fiscal policy, elections, Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, resource distribution, federal tax reform, state and local taxes, life cycle model


The views expressed here are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta or the Federal Reserve System. Any remaining errors are the authors’ responsibility.
Please address questions regarding content to David Altig, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, dave.altig@atl.frb.org; Alan Auerbach, University of California at Berkeley, auerbach@econ.berkeley.edu; Patrick Higgins, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, patrick.higgins@atl.frb.org; Darryl Koehler, Economic Security Planning Inc., darryl.koehler@gmail.com; Laurence Kotlikoff, Boston University, kotlikoff@gmail.com; Michael Leiseca, Economic Security Planning Inc., mleiseca@gmail.com; Ellyn Terry, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, ellyn.terry@atl.frb.org; or Victor Ye, Boston University, yifanye82@gmail.com.
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