Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Free plug

The New America Foundation, one of the more interesting (indeed, most interesting) D.C. thinktanks with a focus on tax and budget policy, just announced its own comprehensive tax reform plan.

Its elements are:

1) Replace the payroll tax with a progressive consumption tax.

2) Corporate integration, albeit by unspecified means.

3) Get rid of many or most tax expenditures.

4) In lieu of the estate tax, treat amounts inherited as taxable income.

5) Use environmental taxes, such as through a gas tax or system of tradable carbon permits, to raise revenue while also reducing economic distortion.

If I had to quarrel, just to get a discussion going, I'd say #1 would be more unwieldy than what we have now if the income tax remains in place, for #2 the choice of means is important, and #4 would create bad tax planning issues if applicable to bequests but not gifts made while the donor is alive. (Estate or inheritance taxation also raises lots of tougher issues on which I am agnostic, leaning towards opposed, if we assume that it can be traded in for other progressivity.) 3 and 5 are hard to quarrel with, by my lights.

But more importantly than any of this, the New American Foundation is to be commended for trying to put interesting ideas on the table at a time when the intellectual and political vigor of reform efforts seems so low. (With apologies to friends who worked on or with the Tax Reform Panel, and who were hemmed in by their mandate.)

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