Tuesday, January 04, 2011

New Tax Notes article that I hope to write soon

I am hoping that I can somehow find the time in the next couple of months to write a piece I would plan to place in Tax Notes, entitled "1986-Style Tax Reform: A Good Idea Whose Time Has Passed."

By 1986-style tax reform, I refer to broadening the tax base while reducing the rates, so that the change is revenue-neutral (an incoherent concept since the "taxes versus spending" distinction is economically nonsense; a better term would be "budget-neutral") and perhaps also distribution-neutral. I still think it was clearly the right thing to do back then, but times have changed and trying to do it again under current circumstances makes about as much sense today as putting Paul and Ringo back on the road for a "Beatles reunion tour."

While I need an article-length format to lay things out as I would like, I will say here that engaging in a politically very painful exercise (base-broadening) for no net budgetary improvement, in the face of a long-time fiscal gap, strikes me as borderline idiotic. Under current circumstances, why would rate cuts be the best way to "spend" the budgetary improvement from the tax base changes? Especially given that income tax rates for individuals are significantly lower than they were pre-1986 Act.

There also are other important aspects I want to touch on: more on revenue-neutral versus budget-neutral, importance of the rise of consumption tax ideas, change in political dynamics since the mid-1980s, obviously the rise of the fiscal gap, changes in how we might think about the income tax preferences for healthcare and housing, the importance of distributional changes at the top since the 1980s, the arbitrary "package" nature of the 1986 deal and why it actually made practical sense then but does not now, etcetera.

The point is not to give up on improving the tax system, but to use base-broadening to lower the fiscal gap, rather than doing it for no net budgetary gain.

UPDATE: After putting the question to my internal Time Triage Analysis Center, I've decided to write (or at least start) this article now. Turnaround time will I hope be not too long, as by later in the month I'll be facing multiple competing time commitments.

1 comment:

The IRS Hitman said...

I look forward to reading your thoughts on this into 2011.