The classic example was David Bradford's pretend "Weapons Supplier Tax Credit." He explained it something like this. Suppose Congress wants to raise income tax revenues by $10 billion, but doesn't want to "raise taxes." This could reflect the Grover Norquist tax pledge, or anything else.
So they do the following 3-step: raise income tax revenues by $10 billion, zero out a $10 billion weapons contract with a military supplier, and enact a $10 billion "weapons supplier tax credit" (WSTC) that said company can use in return for its supplying the very same weapons, effectively for the very same price.
The combination of zeroing out the weapons contract and enacting the WSTC makes a difference of exactly zero. The US government gets the same weapons at the same net budgetary cost, the company is in exactly the same position as it would have been otherwise, etc. No one gains or loses a penny from doing it the new way, rather than the old way (leaving aside administrative, etc. issues). But, as a matter of formal budgetary accounting, it converts a $10 billion "tax increase" into a $10 billion "spending cut."
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, with the permission of Pope Norquist, who apparently issued a ruling under his authority to interpret the no-new-taxes pledge, has done exactly this, except for a minor twist. The WSTC equivalent is being used to convert "taxes" into "fees," rather than into "spending cuts."
Here's what apparently happened, according to the New York Times and a Louisiana paper, the News Star: Louisiana is raising taxes, in the conventional sense of the term, by $700 million, most of it from temporary (3-year) repeal of various business tax credits and exemptions, and the rest of it from permanently raising the cigarette tax from 36 cents to 86 cents a pack.
Of this amount (if one chooses to think about it this way, although money is fungible), about $350 million is going to LSU and other public educational institutions - relative to what would have happened otherwise, that is. The funding avoids cuts, rather than increasing overall education financing.
Apparently, using "tax increases" to pay for education spending is Norquist-verboten under the no new taxes pledge. As a result, to get Norquist's approval, Jindal needed a WSTC-style device to "cut taxes," notionally speaking, by just $350 million, rather than the full $700 million. (There may be something missing here from the press accounts.)
Anyway, here's what these bright fellas came up with: a $350 million phantom tuition increase that would be offset, penny for penny, by WSTC-style tax credits. Per the NYT, the legislation includes "an 'assessment' of around $1,600, called SAVE - 'Student Assessment for a Valuable Education' - on the state's public college students. Nobody would actually pay this assessment because a student would also be granted a tax credit [presumably refundable when needed?] against that assessment. The student's tax credit, in turn, would be transferred to the state Board of Regents, the body that runs higher education. The board would then use the credit to draw money from the Department of Revenue.
"Under the plan [i.e., just the SAVE part of it?], no one's current tax burden would go up or down a cent. [This can't be quite right if describing the bill as a whole - there are cigarette and corporate taxpayers versus the phantom tax credit for students. I suspect the actual point is that no student's combined tax plus tuition bill changes by a cent.] But the Jindal administration said the arrangement would constitute an offset to [$350 billion of?] the new tax revenue that was raised this term, and would thus keep his administration on the right side of its tax pledge.
"Lawmakers have called the provision everything from 'money laundering' to 'stupid,' and that was just the Republicans. A Democratic state senator proposed an amendment to change the name of the credit from SAVE to DUMB, for 'Don't Understand Meaning of Bill.' (He later withdrew the amendment.)"
If this invariably "works" to turn net tax increases into fee increases, then literally all bets could be off. Perhaps Congress could pass a $1 trillion tax increase on billionaires, and offset it with a $1 trillion [something-or-other: national defense? clean air? use of the roads?) fee for billionaires that was offset by a $1 trillion Federal Fee Tax Credit. (OK, there might be an issue with just charging the billionaires for whatever.)
But, as Oliver Wendell Holmes once said: "Not ... while this court sits." The court here is Grover Norquist, and just because Jindal gets a special ruling doesn't mean anyone else will unless Grover likes the applicant and/or the facts.