Distributional Effects of Tax Expenditures

Research Report

Distributional Effects of Tax Expenditures

Abstract

The largest tax preferences for housing, health care, and retirement saving reduce federal revenues by about 3 percent of GDP. They raise after-tax income proportionally more for higher income groups than lower income groups, but raise income proportionately less for those at the very top. The net distributional effects depend on how these tax preferences are financed. If paid for with higher marginal tax rates, they benefit upper-middle income taxpayers at the expense of both lower-income and the highest-income taxpayers, but if paid for by lower per-capita spending, all high-income groups gain and all low-income groups lose.

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