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Politics, Geography, and SALT

Presenters Name: 
Connor Fitzpatrick
Co Presenters Name: 
Primary Research Mentor: 
Nicholas Jacobs
Secondary Research Mentor: 
12:30 - 1:45
Time of Presentation: 
2019 - 12:30pm to 1:45pm
Newcomb Hall Ballroom
Presentation Type: 
Presentations Academic Category: 
Social Science
Grant Program Recipient: 
Double Hoo Research Grant

The State and Local Tax (SALT) deduction allows citizens to deduct taxes paid off of their federally taxable income. This deduction has been the subject of partisan, geographic sparring for over a century. The deduction appeared with the first income tax in 1913 and has been a continual subject of debate, recently culminating in the Republican Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 limiting the SALT deduction. Some interpreted this as a strike against high-tax states that traditionally vote Democratic. This paper analyzes the past and present of the SALT deduction in three ways. First, it investigates the long and controversial history of the SALT deduction; who has supported it, why, and how the conversation has changed. Secondly, it examines county-level tax statistics dating back to 1992 to demonstrate how the SALT deduction has increasingly unequal and disjointed. Finally, it uses a survey experiment to show how citizens view SALT deductions. This paper shows the increasingly partisan nature of the SALT deduction and how people respond to partisan information. It also reveals the geographic element – people view SALT differently in part based on where they live. This paper exposes how people make sense of complicated, opaque policy in partisan and geographic terms, following Mettler’s (2011) conception of the “Submerged State” of important government programs that rarely see the light of day. It peels back the curtain on how the SALT debate has evolved throughout America’s convoluted tax history with relevance for how partisan or geographic opinions affect policy discussions today.