Thursday, April 14, 2011

Excerpt from the Obama Administration's budget plan

A White House fact sheet says the following about tax issues:

1) "The President’s framework would seek a balanced approach to bringing down our deficit, with three dollars of spending cuts and interest savings for every one dollar from tax reform that contributes to deficit reduction. This is consistent with the bipartisan Fiscal Commission’s approach."

COMMENT: I find it entirely obvious that tax increases need to be part of the pivot back to fiscal sustainability. It's amusing to see Republicans trying to denounce this as beyond the realm of permissible public debate.

2) "[W]e cannot afford to make our deficit problem worse by extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans."

COMMENT: This is a pretty small down payment on addressing the insanity of amending present law to enact hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts not currently on the books, not to mention on responding the staggering rise in high-end income inequality over the last 30 years. But you have to start somewhere. Everyone else's Bush tax cuts aren't really affordable either.

3) "[T]he President is calling for individual tax reform that closes loopholes and produces a system which is simpler, fairer and not rigged in favor of those who can afford lawyers and accountants to game it. The President supports the Fiscal Commission’s goal of reducing tax expenditures enough to both lower rates and lower the deficit."

COMMENT: As per my forthcoming Tax Notes article (coming out on May 23) concerning 1986-style tax reform, I would consider it foolish to lower tax rates in the current budgetary and distributional environment. And if tax expenditures are actually "spending through the tax code," then why should repealing them be deemed a "tax increase"? After all, cutting substantively identical direct spending programs would not be deemed a tax increase.

4) "If by 2014, budget projections do not show that the debt-to-GDP ratio has stabilized and is declining in the second half of the decade, the [debt] failsafe [that the plan proposes] will trigger an across the board spending reduction, including on spending through the tax code."

COMMENT: Okay, here it's accepted that tax expenditures are "really" spending. Why not elsewhere as well? Check out the discussion in my May 23 article of what tax expenditure analysis (in the public mind) has in common with viruses and zombies.

5) "[T]he President is continuing his effort to reform our outdated corporate tax code to enhance our economic competitiveness and encourage investment in the United States. By eliminating loopholes, reducing distortions and leveling the playing field in our corporate tax code, we can use the savings to lower the corporate tax rate for the first time in 25 years without adding to the deficit."

COMMENT: Don't expect anything to happen on this any time soon. I will address some of the reasons why in my portion of a breakfast panel discussion at a New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants event that will take place in midtown Manhattan, but also with a live webcast, on the morning of Wednesday, April 27. More details available soon, and at some point I will post my (already completed) PowerPoint slides for this talk.

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