Current Estate Tax Proposals Would Give Largest Benefits to Wealthiest Estates; Alternative Method Would Fix This Problem
The tax on inherited estates is Massachusetts’ only tax that directly reduces wealth inequality. Although the pandemic has highlighted disparities between rich and poor families, the Governor and some in the Legislature have proposed changes to the estate tax that would largely benefit the state’s wealthiest households.
As the Legislature considers elements of a possible tax package, it is worth focusing on a number of interrelated corporate tax issues that are now – or may become – part of the mix. At the heart of these interrelated issues is a problematic, state-level corporate tax break referred to as FAS 109.
The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center was asked to outline options for changes to the estate tax that would preserve revenue, maintain progressivity, and also cut taxes on or exempt estates with a taxable value up to around $1.2 million. Since households subject to the estate tax are among the state’s wealthiest taxpayers, any reductions to revenue from the estate tax represent a transfer of wealth from the Commonwealth to its wealthiest families. Even so, some options are better than others.
ALL TAXES REPORTS
The new federal tax law reduces federal revenues by approximately $1.5 trillion largely by cutting taxes for corporations, people receiving inheritance from very large estates, and high-income owners of pass-through entities such as partnerships. The law provides reduced tax rates and relatively smaller tax reductions to most wage and salary earners while disproportionately benefiting those with high incomes. This paper examines the distribution of tax cuts, the impact of how they may be paid for, how the law interacts with Massachusetts policies, and what the Commonwealth could do to take its own direction different from the federal government.
This policy brief examines the evidence on the likely migration effects of raising income taxes on households with taxable annual income above $1 million and the impacts on net state revenue.
A ballot question has been proposed that would support investments in education and transportation with revenue from an additional 4% tax on income over a million dollars a year. This factsheet examines this proposal and how it relates to longer term economic and policy trends in Massachusetts.
The federal government has enacted very large tax cuts targeted mostly at higher-income taxpayers. The resulting loss of an almost $1.5 trillion in federal revenue is likely to lead to cuts in federal support for programs that are important to people in Massachusetts and to the state budget. Amid these deep tax cuts, a new federal limit on the deductibility of state and local taxes (SALT) has received a lot of attention. Households that itemize deductions and pay over $10,000 in combined state and local taxes will no longer be able to deduct more than this amount when calculating their taxable income for federal taxes.
Almost 20 years ago, a penny of the sales tax was dedicated to the MBTA to be a steadily growing source of revenue for the transit system. But despite some help from the Legislature, the sales tax transfer has grown slower than the economy, creating a persistent gap between the projected funds and actual sales tax transfers. Sales taxes have underperformed for the MBTA as a result of a shift to services, some transactions moving online, and exclusion of fast-growing meals tax revenues from the MBTA. An appendix explains the formula for determining the MBTA sales tax transfer and how other sales taxes are allocated.