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Volatility of California’s Personal Income Tax Structure


Volatility of the Personal Income Tax Base

February 8, 2017 - From 1990 to 2014, personal income in California grew fairly consistently, with limited volatility. On the other hand, California's personal income tax (PIT) base was much more volatile. This is because (1) some of the more stable pieces of personal income are not taxed under California's PIT and (2) the PIT tax base includes capital gains, which are extremely volatile and are not counted as part of personal income in federal statistics. This brief examines the volatility of the PIT tax base, one important element of the PIT's overall volatility in California. (This brief does not focus on other reasons for PIT volatility, such as California's PIT rate structure, in which high-income Californians pay a bigger fraction of their income than lower- and middle-income Californians.)


The 2019-20 Budget: Tax Conformity

March 6, 2019 - The 2017 federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act made significant changes to federal tax laws. Generally, the federal tax changes reduced tax rates and broadened the tax base (what is subject to tax). Because the state’s income tax laws closely refer to large portions of federal law, many of those changes created new differences between federal and state taxes. State law currently does not adopt—or conform to—any of the federal changes made in 2017. This report assesses the arguments for and against conforming to ten of those major changes. (Five of these conformity provisions are included in the Governor's proposal.)


[PDF] The 2021-22 Budget: Business Tax Incentives

January 28, 2021 - The Governor’s budget proposes several changes to taxation to support businesses. Two key factors for evaluating these proposals are: (1) which level of government would forgo revenue; and (2) which businesses would receive assistance. Based on these criteria and others, we recommend that the Legislature prioritize expansion of the Main Street credit, explore alternative structures for an elective S Corporation tax, and reject the proposed one-time expansions of the CAEATFA exclusion and California Competes.


The Governor's Tax Proposal: Evaluation and Alternatives

February 19, 2003 - The Governor is proposing an $8.3 billion total tax increase to fund his realignment program and reduce the General Fund's budget shortfall. This proposal would raise the sales and use tax by one percentage point ($4.6 billion), establish 10 percent and 11 percent high-income tax brackets ($2.6 billion), and raise the cigarette tax by $1.10 per pack ($1.2 billion).


Californians and the Marriage Penalty

December 15, 1999 - Nationally, over 40 percent of married couples currently incur the marriage penalty, which averages about $1,400 per couple. However, even more couples--over 50 percent--receive federal marriage bonuses, totaling several billion dollars more than the marriage penalties. While the likelihood of Californians facing federal marriage penalties is less than nationally, Californians pay a disproportionately large share of such penalties.


[PDF] California's Tax System: A Primer

January 18, 2001 - The purpose of this primer is to address, in a highly graphical format, various questions, including: What are the different types of taxes upon which California relies? What is their relative importance, and how have they evolved over time? How large a "burden" do these taxes impose on Californians and how is this burden distributed? What types of policy issues are associated with the current tax structure?


[PDF] Preliminary Analysis of the 2011-12 Budget Conference Committee Tax Swap Proposal

August 12, 2010 - At the August 11, 2010 informational hearing of the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee we discussed our preliminary analysis of the conference committee tax swap proposal. This responds to Senator Wolk's request that we provide further information on our analysis.


Revenue Volatility In California

January 20, 2005 - Following the boom-bust revenue cycle in recent years, concerns have developed about volatility in California's General Fund revenues. This brief quantifies the amount of revenue volatility experienced in California during the past quarter century, identifies the main causes of the volatility, and discusses the outlook for volatility in the future. We also highlight some options for reducing future impacts of volatility—both those involving changes to the tax system and budgetary changes—and discuss the trade-offs inherent in each of the alternatives.