Taxpayer Flight from MoCo, Part One

By Adam Pagnucco.

We have been printing a ton of posts about the economy on Seventh State, including discussions of our employment and income growth, our rate of business formation, our increasing reliance on corporate welfare to attract and retain employers, the role of economic growth in creating the county’s $120 million budget shortfall and reactions from County Executive candidates and gubernatorial candidate Kevin Kamenetz. Let’s be clear: as we wrote eleven years ago, without economic growth, we will not be able to meet our needs without more tax hikes in the future.  And today, we begin presenting the following facts.

More taxpayers have been leaving Montgomery County than entering it for a long time.

The taxpayers who are coming in make less money than the ones who are leaving.

And while this has been going on for decades, it is now worse than it has ever been.

Our basis for these statements is a data series on tax migration maintained by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).  As the IRS explains:

Migration data for the United States are based on year-to-year address changes reported on individual income tax returns filed with the IRS. They present migration patterns by State or by county for the entire United States and are available for inflows—the number of new residents who moved to a State or county and where they migrated from, and outflows—the number of residents leaving a State or county and where they went. The data are available for Filing Years 1991 through 2016 and include:

  • Number of returns filed, which approximates the number of households that migrated

  • Number of personal exemptions claimed, which approximates the number of individuals

  • Total adjusted gross income, starting with Filing Year 1995

  • Aggregate migration flows at the State level, by the size of adjusted gross income (AGI) and age of the primary taxpayer, starting with Filing Year 2011.

For every state and county in the U.S., the IRS tracks both inflow and outflow of returns, exemptions and adjusted gross income.  But that’s not all: the IRS reports the origin and destination jurisdictions of these flows.  So data users can see a situation in which County X has a net inflow overall but has a net inflow from County Y and a net outflow to County Z.  The directions of these flows, in an out, become apparent when the data is downloaded and crunched.

Over the next few days, we will publish the following statistics.

Montgomery County’s inflows and outflows of returns and adjusted gross income from 1993 (the first year in which comparable data is available) to 2016.

Inflow and outflow statistics for MoCo and its large neighbors – D.C., Frederick, Howard, Prince George’s, Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William – to provide perspective.

A listing of destination and origin jurisdictions of taxpayer migration between MoCo and its neighbors.  This will identify MoCo’s comparative advantages and disadvantages in taxpayer flow across the region.

Tomorrow, we will proceed.