Thursday, February 28, 2019
Brian Galle (Georgetown) presents The Tax Exemption for Charitable Property: An Empirical Assessment at Duke today as part of its Tax Policy Workshop Series hosted by Lawrence Zelenak:
I offer the first multi-jurisdictional assessment of the balance-sheet effects of the property-tax exemption for charitable property. I combine a manually-assembled dataset of property tax rates in over 4,000 municipalities with three large samples of firm-level administrative data, as well as hand-coded variations in the legal details of different states’ exemption regimes, to assemble a panel of more than 1 million firm-years.
As expected, exemption causes charities to utilize more real property as tax rates rise. I offer new theoretical contributions showing that this effect, previously described as an unwanted distortion, may be second-best efficient in the presence of an income tax with accelerated depreciation, and confirm empirically the predictions of this new theory.
Exemption also increases managerial compensation while crowding out efforts to raise revenue through donations and commercial activity. Lastly, exemption eases liquidity constraints on colleges and universities, allowing them to expand enrollment while holding per-student costs level.