Thursday, July 02, 2009

Tax expenditure analysis at the Joint Committee on Taxation

While Ed Kleinbard was Chief of Staff at the Joint Committee on Taxation, he sought to modify and revive tax expenditure analysis, along grounds which I thought added to its usefulness and intellectual coherence. What is going to happen to JCT's tax expenditure analysis now that Ed has moved on to USC Law School?

From an interview with new JCT chief of staff Tom Barthold in the June 29 edition of Tax Notes:

TA: Your predecessor also focused a lot on the tax expenditure issue and, for example, looking at how to define expenditures. Will you continue that work, or are there areas that kind of fall into rethinking how the JCT looks at things?

Barthold: I don't currently have a special new thing that I want to do. The staff, as part of its Budget Act responsibilities, identifies and estimates tax expenditures annually. Of course we'll continue to do that. Ed Kleinbard wanted to emphasize it a little bit differently. The taxwriting committees frequently hold hearings where they say, "We want to look at the tax benefits that we've provided to topic X." When the committees look at that, that's a tax expenditure analysis. When our staff prepares background materials for committee hearings, it's often a discussion of how much does this cost, what are the distributional consequences, are there alternatives, what are the economic effects? That's really what a tax expenditure analysis is about.

I suspect that a redacted though still accurate version of this colloquy might read as follows:

TA: Your predecessor sought to revive and change tax expenditure analysis. Will you continue that work?

Barthold: No.

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