Public Finance

Understanding the Impact of Federal Tax Reforms on the Municipal Bond Market

By: Lucosky Brookman
Understanding the Impact of Federal Tax Reforms on the Municipal Bond Market


Federal tax policies have long held a significant influence over the municipal bond market. As an experienced public finance attorney, understanding these dynamics and their implications is paramount in serving clients effectively. This article aims to discuss the impact of federal tax reforms on the municipal bond market, providing a deeper understanding of the intricate connections between public finance and tax policy.

Municipal Bonds and Tax Policy: An Overview

Municipal bonds, or “munis,” are debt instruments issued by state and local governments to finance various public projects, ranging from infrastructure development to public school improvements. A defining feature of these bonds is their tax treatment. In most cases, the interest earned on municipal bonds is exempt from federal income taxes and may also be exempt from state and local taxes. This tax-exempt status has been a cornerstone of the municipal bond market, making munis an attractive investment for individuals in high tax brackets. In other instances, taxable bonds are the appropriate instrument to facilitate the financing.

However, federal tax reforms can impact the relative attractiveness of these bonds, influencing both supply and demand dynamics in the municipal bond market.

Impact of Federal Tax Reforms: A Closer Look

1.Changes to Individual Tax Rates

When individual income tax rates change, the attractiveness of municipal bonds shifts. When tax rates increase, the tax-exempt status of munis becomes more valuable, driving up demand for these bonds. Conversely, when tax rates decrease, the tax savings from investing in munis are reduced, which can soften demand.

2. Corporate Tax Rates and Bank Demand

Banks are major investors in municipal bonds. However, changes to the corporate tax rate can influence their demand for munis. Similar to individual investors, higher corporate tax rates make the tax-exempt status of munis more attractive to banks, increasing their demand. Conversely, lower corporate tax rates can reduce bank demand for municipal bonds.

3. Reforms Impacting Advance Refundings

Advance refunding is a mechanism that allows issuers to take advantage of lower interest rates by issuing new bonds to pay off old ones before their call date. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017 eliminated the tax-exempt status of advance refunding bonds, significantly affecting the supply dynamics in the municipal bond market.

The removal of tax-exempt status for advance refunding has forced issuers to consider alternatives such as taxable advance refundings or current refundings within the 90-day period before the call date. While this change was initially expected to impact the volume of issuance in the municipal market, issuers have adapted to the new norm, underscoring the resilience and flexibility of the market.

4. State and Local Tax (SALT) Deduction Cap

The TCJA also introduced a $10,000 cap on the SALT deduction, which allows taxpayers to deduct state and local taxes from their federal taxable income. This change has particularly affected taxpayers in high-tax states, leading to increased demand for municipal bonds as a tax-efficient investment option.


Federal tax reforms play a pivotal role in shaping the municipal bond market, affecting both demand and supply dynamics. As public finance attorneys, staying abreast of these changes is crucial in providing our clients with informed, strategic advice. While tax policy is only one factor in the broader landscape of public finance, its implications for municipal bonds are significant and far-reaching. As we navigate the ever-changing waters of tax reform, understanding its impact on the municipal bond market is key to our role as effective and informed practitioners in the field of public finance.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Nonprofit organizations should consult with qualified legal professionals for specific guidance tailored to their individual circumstances.