California Tech Firms Move to Texas for Its “Laissez-Faire Environment”

(p. B1) Moves by high-profile companies to Texas from California are likely to improve the personal finances of executives and offer employees more affordable housing—but make little difference to the firms’ tax bills.

Oracle Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Enterprise Co. are the latest big corporations to announce moves to the Lone Star State. Elon Musk, the chief executive of Tesla Inc., is also moving to Texas, and the electric car company is expanding there.

The announcements have highlighted the vastly different tax and regulatory systems in the country’s two most populous states. California relies more on taxing personal income, particularly of high-income households, and operates a growing regulatory structure. Texas leans on more regressive property and sales taxes and boasts a more laissez-faire environment. The biggest difference: High-paid executives who move can see their state income-tax bills go from 13.3% to nothing.

. . .

(p. B2) Changing addresses or even moving people and facilities doesn’t necessarily change a company’s tax costs on its own.

. . .

The bigger factor—outweighing any change in business taxes—is likely to be the lower cost of employing workers in the state. For most people, that calculation is more about housing costs, said Darien Shanske, a tax law professor at the University of California, Davis. Housing scarcity and land-use regulations are bigger drivers of payroll costs than taxes.

“Moving a headquarters to Austin where people can afford a place to live, that dominates whether they pay the personal income tax, for most people,” Mr. Shanske said.

For the full story, see:

Richard Rubin and Theo Francis. “Lower Costs Draw Tech Firms to Texas.” The Wall Street Journal (Thurs., Dec 17, 2020): B1-B2.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date December 16, 2020, and has the title “Texas’ Tax Advantage Is All About Individuals, Not Business Taxes.”)

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