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The Myth of Millionaire Tax Flight: How Place Still Matters for the Rich

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In this age of globalization, many countries and U.S. states are worried about the tax flight of the rich. As income inequality grows and U.S. states consider raising taxes on their wealthiest residents, there is a palpable concern that these high rollers will board their private jets and fly away, taking their wealth with them. Many assume that the importance of location In this age of globalization, many countries and U.S. states are worried about the tax flight of the rich. As income inequality grows and U.S. states consider raising taxes on their wealthiest residents, there is a palpable concern that these high rollers will board their private jets and fly away, taking their wealth with them. Many assume that the importance of location to a person's success is at an all-time low. Cristobal Young, however, makes the surprising argument that location is very important to the world's richest people. Frequently, he says, place has a great deal to do with how they make their millions. In The Myth of Millionaire Tax Flight, Young examines a trove of data on millionaires and billionaires--confidential tax returns, Forbes lists, and census records--and distills down surprising insights. While economic elites have the resources and capacity to flee high-tax places, their actual migration is surprisingly limited. For the rich, ongoing economic potential is tied to the place where they become successful--often where they are powerful insiders--and that success ultimately diminishes both the incentive and desire to migrate. This important book debunks a powerful idea that has driven fiscal policy for years, and in doing so it clears the way for a new era. Millionaire taxes, Young argues, could give states the funds to pay for infrastructure, education, and other social programs to attract a group of people who are much more mobile--the younger generation.


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In this age of globalization, many countries and U.S. states are worried about the tax flight of the rich. As income inequality grows and U.S. states consider raising taxes on their wealthiest residents, there is a palpable concern that these high rollers will board their private jets and fly away, taking their wealth with them. Many assume that the importance of location In this age of globalization, many countries and U.S. states are worried about the tax flight of the rich. As income inequality grows and U.S. states consider raising taxes on their wealthiest residents, there is a palpable concern that these high rollers will board their private jets and fly away, taking their wealth with them. Many assume that the importance of location to a person's success is at an all-time low. Cristobal Young, however, makes the surprising argument that location is very important to the world's richest people. Frequently, he says, place has a great deal to do with how they make their millions. In The Myth of Millionaire Tax Flight, Young examines a trove of data on millionaires and billionaires--confidential tax returns, Forbes lists, and census records--and distills down surprising insights. While economic elites have the resources and capacity to flee high-tax places, their actual migration is surprisingly limited. For the rich, ongoing economic potential is tied to the place where they become successful--often where they are powerful insiders--and that success ultimately diminishes both the incentive and desire to migrate. This important book debunks a powerful idea that has driven fiscal policy for years, and in doing so it clears the way for a new era. Millionaire taxes, Young argues, could give states the funds to pay for infrastructure, education, and other social programs to attract a group of people who are much more mobile--the younger generation.

41 review for The Myth of Millionaire Tax Flight: How Place Still Matters for the Rich

  1. 5 out of 5

    Justin Goodman

    I originally read this because I had to scratch an itch, and I ended up semi-satisfied. I'm taking Young's data at face value since I don't have the time or expertise to really gauge whether it's the ideal measurement for wealth and tax flight. I'll say the assortment of tax return info (for millionaires), Forbes list (for Billionaire migration), and "natural experiments" are convincing enough that I don't have much to say for the first two chapters. The third chapter is broadly about sourcing a I originally read this because I had to scratch an itch, and I ended up semi-satisfied. I'm taking Young's data at face value since I don't have the time or expertise to really gauge whether it's the ideal measurement for wealth and tax flight. I'll say the assortment of tax return info (for millionaires), Forbes list (for Billionaire migration), and "natural experiments" are convincing enough that I don't have much to say for the first two chapters. The third chapter is broadly about sourcing and questions of tax migration, but geared towards the issue of shell companies in tax havens (with explicit reference to the Panama Papers). One of the more interesting arguments here, and decently convincing, is that offshore accounts seem to be tied more to privacy concerns than wealth: "Desire for secrecy is most tellingly shown by the high rate of tax haven use by residents of Middle Eastern Countries that have no income tax." His primary source for this data is Gabriel Zucman's The Hidden Wealth of Nations . If the rest of the book had been like the section titled "sandwiches and software," I'd have given this book a higher score. In it, Young uses the concrete and quippy examples of how many big macs McDonald's employee can afford in various locations across the globe and the income boost of an Indian software developer who does nothing more than move to the US in order to argue that place (ergo social capital) is fundamental to wealth. Thus millionaire's have practical, non-statistical, human reasons to not flee taxes since that wealth is tied to place. The lack of mention for the historical and social forces that created these conditions and how those might affect future choices by millionaires is telling though. Zucman's book has a foreword from Thomas Piketty, and Young references Piketty early on in The Myth of Millionaire Tax Flight. I mention this because these three seem to be as far as Capitalist "Anti-Capitalism" can go. It never considers capital beyond wealth, never considers the historical and sociopolitical forces behind it, the lived stuff, and so they sound like forensics experts speaking through the muffled cloth of a Rawlsian "veil of ignorance" (which Young mentions several times) This comes out in certain absences - referencing the "cultural fit" element of cultural capital his example of bias isn't racism (what would he say of black wall street?) but an American lawyer unable to get a job as a barrister because he had an accent. This also comes out in phrasing - a constant slathering on of the talent and hard-work of millionaires/billionaires (no mention of monopoly practices and little directly about the government as the tail of the wealthy's dog) and language of "fitting" applied to class, which implies that wealth will come to those who find "their place." Then, in a random and undeveloped call out, he accuses "many scholars on the left," citing Leslie Sklair's The Transnational Capitalist Class ) of believing "the rich have grown indifferent to nationhood." I have not read Sklair's book yet, but this immediately struck me as off; from my understanding the "left" doesn't generally talk about "the rich," nor generally focus on their relationship to "nationhood." I found this prebook essay by Sklair on the TCC, as well as this 2016 interview. From what I can tell, the TCC, in Sklair's lens, is meant to explain 1) the conversion of all aspects of life into competitive businesses (that infamous NYTimes oped that more or less says "Shakespeare wrote King Lear during a plague, what are you doing now") and 2) the shift from the predominance of the state as the frame of reference to the predominance of the world (think how small cities like New Haven are "joining" the Paris Climate Accord, or everyone recognizing the Sydney Opera House without ever visiting Sydney). The TCC themselves are defined by their interest in preserving this role to maintaining power for various, complicated reasons. Young is just a step left of neoliberalism. Better than nothing, I guess. TL;DR: Young's book is maybe useful for progressive politics based in the US, but beyond the data existing in book form there's a lack of breadth, a lack of imagination, that makes him look like an ant who developed a air of gravity because he stumbled on a lost magnifying glass. Probably best fit for a think tank's reference section.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mehri

  3. 5 out of 5

    Richard

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    José María

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lucas

  6. 4 out of 5

    Asher Baumrin

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    Henry Silver

  8. 4 out of 5

    Cristobal Young

  9. 5 out of 5

    Nader Bsat

  10. 4 out of 5

    Chris Stolte

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    Diederik Stadig

  12. 4 out of 5

    John Ceffalio

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    S.

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    Valhea

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    Jeremy Gutner

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    Per Henning Hanssen

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    Mike

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    Elliot Hanowski

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    Alice

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    Jonno Goldman

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    Gloria

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    Kikkervisje

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    Nikunj

  41. 4 out of 5

    Sumit Sabnis

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