Distributional Effects of Individual Income Tax Expenditures: An Update

Distributional Effects of Individual Income Tax Expenditures: An Update

February 3, 2012

Abstract

Tax expenditures on average raise after-tax incomes more for upper-income than for lower-income taxpayers. As a share of income, special rates for capital gains and dividends and itemized deductions provide the largest benefits for taxpayers in the top 1 percent of the income distribution, exemptions and exclusions benefit taxpayers in upper middle-income groups the most, and refundable credits provide the largest benefits to those in the bottom two quintiles of the distribution. Interactions among provisions make the revenue cost of all tax expenditures about 10 percent larger than the sum of the costs of the separate provisions.

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