NewYorkUniversity
LawReview
Current Issue

Volume 84, Number 6

December 2009

Tax Expenditures and Global Labor Mobility

Ruth Mason

Governments often deliver social welfare benefits through “tax expenditures,” which are provisions of the tax code (such as home mortgage deductions) designed to serve social policy objectives. This Article considers the criteria for granting tax expenditures to individuals who work outside the state where they reside. International tax norms currently assign the primary entitlement to tax labor income to the state where the taxpayer works, but they assign the obligation to confer personal tax expenditures exclusively to the state where the taxpayer resides. This Article argues that the disjunction between the entitlement to tax and the obligation to provide tax benefits affects cross-border labor mobility and has important distributive implica- tions for taxpayers and states. In constructing these arguments, this Article introduces the concepts of “labor export neutrality” and “labor residence neutrality” as tools for analyzing government policies that affect global labor mobility. A policy is labor export neutral if it does not distort taxpayers’ decisions about where to work. A policy is labor residence neutral if it does not distort taxpayers’ decisions about where to reside.