I have posted two new articles at the SSRN download site. The first is a substantially revised version of a paper I posted some months back that, at the time, was mostly about income averaging. This time, I'm hunting somewhat bigger game. Title, link, and abstract are as follows:
Beyond the Pro-Consumption Tax Consensus.
In the last two decades, the dominant norm in fundamental tax reform has shifted from income taxation to consumption taxation, among academics no less than policymakers. Few have recognized, however, that the case for a consumption tax overlaps substantially with that for lifetime income averaging, an idea that has drawn considerably less support. Likewise, few have recognized that the grounds for unease about the case for income averaging (as an ideal system, leaving aside administrative concerns) apply equally to the case for consumption taxation.
Within a welfare economics framework, the case for both norms is close to irrefutable if one makes three key assumptions: that markets are complete, that individuals engage in consistent rational choice given their preferences, and that the only relevant information about taxpayer "ability" is that provided by an undifferentiated measure of lifetime earnings. Where these assumptions fail to hold, (1) allowing income averaging between periods may be undesirable, (2) the case for a consumption tax becomes less clearcut, and (3) as revealed by the "new dynamic public finance" literature in economics, there may actually be a strong rationale for taxing saving.
The second article is a piece I wrote for a conference at tax and corporate governance that I attended in Munich last month. Title, link, and abstract are as follows:
Disclosure and Civil Penalty Rules in the U.S. Legal Response to Corporate Tax Shelters.
This paper, written for a European conference on tax and corporate governance, evaluates two aspects of the U.S. legal response to corporate tax shelters: the civil penalty rules and the disclosure rules. It argues that, while the disclosure rules do not impose undue burdens, their usefulness to the IRS is limited by the difficulty of steering between the twin dangers of under-disclosure (permitting taxpayers to conceal close cousins of reportable transactions) and over-disclosure (creating information overload for the IRS). Thus, expanded reporting requirements with respect to book-tax differences in income accounting are likely to prove more useful to the IRS.
With respect to penalties, the paper argues that the rules' main flaw is excessive reliance on taxpayer good faith, which induces shopping around for "penalty shield" opinions from tax lawyers. To address this problem and create a better set of incentives in the "audit lottery," the paper argues for no-fault civil penalties, with penalty insurance serving to address any concerns about the proportionality of sanctions imposed on risk-averse taxpayers who may have been acting in good faith.