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October 18, 2018
If Democrats Win, They Can Force Trump to Reveal His Tax Returns
Donald Trump’s tax returns are bound to reenter the limelight — and not just because Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen have put tax crime in the news recently. IfDemocrats win a majority in either house of Congress during the November midterm elections, they will have the power to compel disclosure of Trump’s tax returns. That possibility seems very likely to figure prominently in the fall campaign.
July 31, 2018
Everyone Knows Deficits Don't Matter — And Everyone Is Wrong
As everyone knows, voters don’t care about budget deficits. To cite just one piece of recent evidence, a poll conducted last month by the Pew Research Center asked respondents to name the most important issues facing the country: Deficits ranked 14th out of 19 options. But despite what everybody thinks, they’re wrong — or at least overconfident about the irrelevance of deficits. With budget shortfalls headed north of $1 trillion over the next few years, it seems plausible to expect that deficits will gain new political salience. Indeed, there are two reasons to think they will become an important issue in the near term.
July 2, 2018
Tax History: Trump Touts Tariffs for Revenue — Don't Count on It
Tariffs do more than regulate trade; they also raise money. Last week, President Trump waxed nostalgic for the days when tariffs paid most of the tab for American government. “You know, in the old days, when we had tariffs, we didn’t have income tax,” he remarked to a group of congressional lawmakers June 26. “When people wanted to come in — if you look at the days of McKinley and some others, when people wanted to come in, they had to pay a price. When they want to come in and raid our treasury, they had to pay a price. We didn’t have income tax. You didn’t need income tax. We didn’t have debt.” As a matter of history, Trump’s observation is mostly right. But as a matter of contemporary policy, it’s also irrelevant. The world has changed too much over the past century to make this comparison useful. Moreover, if we widen the historical lens just a bit, the story of McKinley-era tariffs is not encouraging for anyone hoping to make tariffs great again — at least as a source of federal revenue.
May 21, 2018
Trump Promised a Postcard Tax Return, and He Could Still Deliver
Republicans love postcards, at least when it comes to tax returns. “We’re making things so simple that you can do your taxes on a form the size of a postcard,” promised House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., at a November 2, 2017 news conference.
April 16, 2018
Why Is Tax Day April 15?
Taxpaying is a civic ritual. The annual ceremony -- gathering records, completing returns, rushing to the post office -- has been diluted in recent years, especially by the rise of electronic filing. But April 15 remains a national anti-holiday of sorts. It may not be fun, but it's a touchstone of American citizenship. But why did Congress choose April 15 to be tax day. Well, originally, they didn't.
March 5, 2018
Why the TCJA Probably Won't Matter in November
According to recent polls, Americans are warming to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (P.L. 115-97). According to a February survey commissioned by The New York Times, more Americans now approve of the law than disapprove of it. That’s a big shift from the end of last year, when most polls found the TCJA to be deeply underwater.
February 16, 2018
Playing Favorites With Tax: The Income Tax Has Always Favored Some States Over Others
As the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act took shape last year, Democrats attacked it for numerous flaws, both real and imagined. One of the most common complaints concerned the law’s discriminatory intention and effect. Blue-state taxpayers were being asked to foot the bill for red-state tax relief, critics insisted. Exhibit number one? New limits on the state and local tax deduction.
November 6, 2017
Go Big and Go Home: The Dicey Politics of Tax Reduction
Republicans are convinced that passing some sort of tax bill is crucial to their political future. And they may be right. The only thing worse than passing an unpopular bill may be passing no bill at all. History suggests otherwise, however. Tax cuts are no golden ticket to election victory. Consider the Revenue Act of 1948, which was pushed through Congress by an insistent Republican majority and enacted over the repeated vetoes of an unpopular Democratic president. The law seemed like a good idea at the time, but the 1948 tax cut proved to be a disappointment. Having delivered on their promise to give Americans a tax cut, Republicans still found themselves on the losing end of the 1948 election. Voters tossed them out and installed Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress.
October 27, 2017
The SALT Deduction Has Always Been Hard to Defend — And to Kill
The most important pay-for in the GOP unified framework is now on the ropes. The deduction for state and local taxes (SALT), long distained by policy experts on both sides of the aisle, seems likely to survive its most recent near-death experience — a turn of events that should surprise exactly no one.
February 2, 2017
Tax History: Can Trump Be the New Reagan for Tax Reform?
January 18, 2017
Tax History: The Late, Not-So-Great Effort to Replace the Corporate Tax in 1936
November 10, 2016
Tax History: Trump's Tax Reform Must Help the Middle Class or It Won't Last
November 3, 2016
Tax History: Should We Borrow or Tax to Pay for Infrastructure?
October 20, 2016
Tax History: Obamacare Needs a Tougher Penalty Tax, but That's a Hard Sell
August 31, 2016
Tax History: The Century of the Estate Tax: Made for Revenue, Not Redistribution
April 28, 2016
JCT Investigation of Nixon's Tax Returns
March 17, 2016
Threats, Leverage, and the Early Success of Reprisal Taxes
January 28, 2016
Tax History: Ike's IRS Commissioner Called the Income Tax a 'Devouring Evil'
December 3, 2015
Tax History: Tax Uncertainty Is Certain, so Stop Complaining About It
October 22, 2015
Bernie Sanders and His Socialist Taxes -- A 1930s Throwback
April 23, 2015
Tax History: Liberals Should Talk About Horizontal, Not Vertical, Equity
April 24, 2014
Tax History: Did Americans Invent Soak-the-Rich Taxation?
April 10, 2014
Tax History: Harry Truman's Tax Returns Have a Story to Tell
March 27, 2014
Tax History: The Love-Hate Relationship With the Standard Deduction
March 13, 2014
Tax History: Why We Tax Everyone on Everything
February 20, 2014
Tax History: The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Filing Season of 1914
January 30, 2014
Tax History: Complexity: The Original Sin of the Income Tax
January 16, 2014
Tax History: Tax Reform Has Leaders, but No Followers
December 12, 2013
Tax History: Is the VAT a Career Killer for Politicians?
November 25, 2013
News Analysis: The Tax Pros and Cons of Being a Communist
October 31, 2013
Tax History: How Congress Broke the Gas Tax
October 10, 2013
Tax History: Can the 14th Amendment Fix Everything?
September 26, 2013
Tax History: Original Intent and the Revenue Act of 1913
September 19, 2013
Tax History: Is Regressive Taxation the Best Response to Inequality?
September 5, 2013
Republicans Once Hated Debt Even More Than Taxes
August 22, 2013
Can Debt Ceiling Debates Be Useful?
August 8, 2013
Should We Tax Advertising?
July 18, 2013
Who Stands for the Public Tax Interest?
July 2, 2013
Abraham Lincoln Paid Income Taxes -- but He Didn't Have to
June 13, 2013
Why Did Congress Exempt Social Welfare Organizations?
June 4, 2013
The Elements of Tax Reform
May 14, 2013
IRS Stalking of Political Groups Under Kennedy and Nixon
April 11, 2013
The Birth of Tax Day and the Tea Party
April 4, 2013
Peas in a Pod: Mellon, Coolidge, and the Revenue Act of 1924
March 21, 2013
Playing Fast and Loose With Lessons From the 1950s
March 14, 2013
The Political Bankruptcy of Keynesianism
February 28, 2013
The Wrong Way to Soak the Rich
February 7, 2013
Stanley Surrey Knew a Thing or Two About Loopholes
January 24, 2013
The Tea Party and the Small Business of Tax Reform
January 10, 2013
Failed Discipline and Planned Disasters
December 13, 2012
How the Charity Deduction Made the World Safe for Philanthropy
December 6, 2012
The Deliberate Creation of the Most Expensive Tax Preference
November 20, 2012
Should the FICA Tax Earnings Cap Be Eliminated?
November 15, 2012
Opinion: A Divided Congress Can Be Good for Tax Policy
November 1, 2012
Opinion: Obamacare, the IRS, and the End of Privacy
October 25, 2012
Opinion: We Still Need the Lousy Payroll Tax Cut
October 4, 2012
Opinion: Soak the Poor to Make the Rich Happy?
September 25, 2012
The Laffer Curve, Part 3
September 25, 2012
News Analysis: Romney's Tax Rate Lower Than Any President's Since Nixon
September 20, 2012
Tax History: Soaking the Rich for Fun and Profit
September 13, 2012
News Analysis: Why Repealing the 16th Amendment Probably Wouldn't Matter
September 11, 2012
40 Years: View From the Top: Former IRS Commissioners Remember the Job
September 6, 2012
Tax History: Who Pays? It Depends on the Agenda
August 23, 2012
News Analysis: Tax Troubles of the Rich and Famous, 1930s Edition
August 2, 2012
Tax History: Tax Limitation Amendments in the Reagan Era
July 26, 2012
Tax History: The Nearly Successful Campaign to Gut the Income Tax
July 11, 2012
News Analysis: What Would Nixon Do? Tricky Dick's Lessons on Tax Disclosure
June 21, 2012
News Analysis: When Taxing the Rich, How Much Is Enough?
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June 14, 2012
News Analysis: The Pitfalls of Comparative Tax Analysis
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May 24, 2012
News Analysis: Throwing 'Nazi' Into the Tax Policy Debate
May 10, 2012
News Analysis: Are You Sure? Uncertainty, Taxes, and Recovery
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May 3, 2012
News Analysis: It's the Fairness, Stupid
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April 26, 2012
America's Sovereign Debt Crisis -- Been There, Done That in 1812
April 19, 2012
News Analysis: Should Taxes Promote Fairness or Growth?
February 16, 2012
News Analysis: Obama's Job Creation Tax Credit: Cool Idea, Bad Policy
February 2, 2012
News Analysis: Getting Over Government's Revolving Door
January 26, 2012
News Analysis: Let's Make Tax Disclosure Mandatory for Candidates
January 24, 2012
News Analysis: Romney Returns Show Wealth Should Be Taxed Like Work
January 19, 2012
Bartlett's Not-So-Familiar Quotations
Bruce Bartlett is every liberal's favorite conservative. In 2006 he published Impostor, a scathing indictment of President George W. Bush that earned him immediate exile from the ranks of the Republican faithful. Liberals responded with the kind of warm embrace reserved for apostates from the other side.
January 12, 2012
News Analysis: Forget Buffett -- What About a Romney Rule?
January 5, 2012
Lazy Taxpayers or Lying Politicians?
December 28, 2011
News Analysis: Can Taxes Prevent Social Unrest?
December 15, 2011
News Analysis: The Durability of a Dysfunctional Tax
December 1, 2011
News Analysis: When Corporations Demanded Double Taxation
November 17, 2011
What the Civil War Can Teach Us About Tax Reform
This year marks the sesquicentennial of the Civil War -- much to the delight of battle reenactors and military historians everywhere. But tax geeks should be celebrating, too, because 1861 was also a milestone in fiscal history. As the fractured American nation plunged into a fratricidal abyss, Union political leaders made time to open a new chapter in the annals of American taxation: They imposed the country's first income tax. In isolation, the income tax of 1861 was an abject failure. Mired in controversy, it languished on the law books when Treasury Secretary Salmon Chase refused to enforce it. But the political discourse surrounding its enactment -- and subsequent income levies enacted during the war -- can teach us a thing or two about the dynamics of tax reform. In particular, it drives home the role of balance and shared sacrifice in the making of tax policy.
October 20, 2011
News Analysis: The Dangerous Demise of Temporary Tax Policy
October 12, 2011
1986? Who Cares?
We're marking the wrong anniversary. Sure, it's been 25 years since the legislative anomaly known as the Tax Reform Act of 1986. But it's been 30 years since Congress approved a more lasting piece of legislation: the tax cuts of 1981. The TRA 1986 reform made profound changes to tax policy. But it did nothing to change tax politics. By contrast, the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 (ERTA) transformed the political economy of federal revenue.
September 29, 2011
News Analysis: The 411 on Herman Cain's 999 Plan
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September 22, 2011
News Analysis: Buffett Bracket or Roosevelt Rule? Two Ways to Skin a Fat Cat
What's the best way to extract more revenue from the rich? When President Obama formulated his "Buffett rule," he avoided that question. But it's an important one, in terms of both substance and symbolism.
September 8, 2011
News Analysis: Graduated Corporate Rates: Bad Idea in 1935, Bad Idea Today
How did we ever end up with graduated corporate rates? After all, there aren't many people willing to defend them these days. Lawmakers, of course, implicitly endorse graduation whenever they choose not to repeal it, but you would have to search long and hard for an affirmative defense of the idea. Or a compelling one.
August 25, 2011
News Analysis: Buffett and Carnegie: Pity the Plutocrats
After Warren Buffett published his plan for taxing the rich, it didn't take long for someone to put the S-word in play. "Is he completely a socialist . . . playing into Mr. Obama's hands of 'Tax anybody who makes money and give it to people who don't work'?" asked Eric Bolling of the Fox Business Network.
July 28, 2011
News Analysis: Why Liberals Should Learn to Love the Debt Debate
The debt limit crisis is the best thing to happen to liberalism in 30 years. It's a manufactured crisis, of course. Republicans have conjured it out of thin air, convinced that it will force a radical reduction in the size of government.
June 30, 2011
News Analysis: Quack, Quack: Ducks on the March
Is the GOP going soft on taxes? It seems unlikely, especially given the Republican walkout on Vice President Joe Biden's debt limit talks, ostensibly in response to Democratic tax hike fever. But before House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., bailed on Biden, he offered a hint of compromise. "We are not opposed to revenues," he told reporters. "We are just opposed to tax increases."1 That's a pretty slender reed to build a budget deal on. But in these hyperpartisan times, maybe it's enough. Or maybe not.
June 2, 2011
News Analysis: The Pale King -- Taxes, Tedium, and Transcendence
Every tax professional knows the look -- that mixture of pity and dismay when you tell someone what you do for a living. Sometimes it comes with a flash of fear behind the eyes -- fear of taxes, sure, and probably fear of the IRS. But also, more profoundly, fear that you might actually talk about your job. God help us.
May 19, 2011
Tax History: Soak the Kids: Taxes, Debt, and Intergenerational Equity
April 14, 2011
Ronald Reagan on Tax Reform
As talk of tax reform continues to heat up in Washington, it seems like a good time to revisit 1986. The tax reform legislation enacted that year remains one of the more remarkable legislative achievements in modern U.S. political history -- a triumph of policy over politics. Reproduced below is a radio address by President Ronald Reagan on the subject of tax reform, delivered June 7, 1986.
March 31, 2011
Tax History: The Fifties: From Peace to War
March 21, 2011
Tax History: The Fifties: From War to Peace
March 16, 2011
Kickin' it old school: tax avoidance c. 1937
"The investigation of the income tax returns for each successive year reveals the increasingly stubborn fight of wealthy individuals and corporations against the payment of their fair share of the expenses of government." With that scathing observation, Treasury secretary Henry Morgenthau introduced a 1937 study of tax avoidance -- the prelude to a major congressional investigation of tax slacking by the rich and famous. Morgenthau continued: "Although Mr. Justice Holmes said: 'Taxes are what we pay for civilized society,' too many citizens want the civilization at a discount.
February 16, 2011
Tax History: The Blind, the Illiterate, and Members of Congress
January 20, 2011
Tax History: Butler at 75: Healthcare Debate Spotlights 1936 Decision
The economic crisis of the past two years has focused new attention on old ideas. Specifically, it has revived interest in the New Deal, in all its frenzied, discordant, and sometimes misguided glory. Predictably, it also has raised the profile of New Deal critics, including six skeptical jurists who dealt the New Deal a body blow in January 1936. From the outset, New Dealers worried about the judicial threat to New Deal programs. In May 1935 their fears were realized when the Supreme Court unanimously voted to overturn the National Recovery Act, a centerpiece of President Roosevelt's nascent recovery program. Less than nine months later, six of the same justices took a second swing at the New Deal in United States v. Butler, a decision invalidating the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA). Today, some critics of the Obama administration are looking to Butler as they frame a challenge to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. As Tony Cardona has written, "Butler is back."
December 14, 2010
Historical Perspective: Why Liberals Should Like Tax Reform
The smart money bets against tax reform -- always and everywhere. But every once in a while -- usually a long while -- the smart money is wrong. In recent weeks, we've seen a few stray signals that this particular while may be almost over. American political leaders are nearing that proverbial spot between a rock and a hard place. The rock, in this case, is our looming debt crisis. (Although words like "looming" conveniently obscure the timing of that crisis, which might unfold in a week or a decade.) The hard place -- which lawmakers are highly skilled at avoiding -- is genuine austerity.
November 18, 2010
Tax History: The Myth of Political Cover
Last week I attended a roundtable on the deficit reduction plan released by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, co-chairs of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. At the end of the session -- which was a mix of polite criticism and less-than-rapturous applause -- attendees were asked a simple question: If you had to vote yes or no, would you support the plan? The Bowles-Simpson plan won overwhelming approval from that audience of economists and budget wonks. But not from me (and not from three other cantankerous characters in attendance). I can't speak for the others, but mine was a protest vote. It's not that I object to the plan's tax proposals (which are varied, vague, and more than a little bold). And I have no particular opinion about its spending components. Rather, I object to the very idea of a blue-ribbon deficit commission. It's simply a waste of time.
October 19, 2010
Revenge of the 80th Congress
As congressional battle lines are drawn over what to do with the expiring 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts, you can't help but experience a feeling of déjà vu all over again. This is just one more skirmish in a long war that has played out over the last seven decades and has yet to reach resolution. The Republican-controlled 80th Congress fired the opening salvo in 1947, demanding rate reductions in the wake of historic tax hikes enacted during the fiscal crisis occasioned by World War II. The conflict brewing in Washington today is but a continuation of that prolonged political struggle -- and it is all getting a bit old.
October 14, 2010
A Tea Party for Calvin Coolidge?
Every dog will have his day, and Calvin Coolidge is having his. Two years ago, Franklin Roosevelt took his star turn in the spotlight of contemporary politics. But today, thanks to the Tea Party -- and political commentator Glenn Beck in particular -- Coolidge is getting his moment in the limelight. Historical figures can make useful heroes, but movements should be careful about whom they idolize. Modern-day politicians don't always fare well in comparison with their predecessors.
August 12, 2010
Are You Rich Enough to Soak?
For historians, it's an occupational hazard: While others seek guidance in the wisdom of past generations (the Founders, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, insert favorite wise man here), historians are trained for cynicism. Spend enough time poking around the pantheon of American politics, and the heroes start to look a little less heroic -- and a lot more human. Still, there's wisdom to be found in history. Let's call it perspective. History can't tell us WWJD (What would Jefferson do?). But it can sometimes tell us why we have a dilemma in the first place. Find yourself in the middle of a bad situation? History can explain how you got there.
April 8, 2010
Four Things You Should Know About the Boston Tea Party
Almost everyone knows a little about the Boston Tea Party. Most of us learned in grade school about Samuel Adams, his band of phony Indians, and the tea dumped in Boston Harbor. We might even know something -- or think we do -- about the meaning of the event. It was all about taxes, right? Indeed it was. But not the way you might think.
March 25, 2010
Tax History: Taxation and Its Discontents
Pity the editors of print publications, especially those of the monthly or quarterly variety. Time is cruel to everyone, but it's especially hard on writers trying to say something intelligent about politics and meet a printer's deadline weeks or even months before actual publication. What can you say when everything worth saying will have already been said? Not much, usually. Practitioners of the periodical press learn early to hedge their bets. If you avoid definitive statements (and certainly all predictions), you minimize the chance of looking like an idiot. You also minimize the chance of saying anything useful.
February 3, 2010
Hoover, Mellon, and Obama: Putting Them in Perspective
Recently some old names from history have been hauled back into use again -- as pejoratives. When Democrats or Republicans are angry at President Obama, they call him a "Hoover." By this reference to the 31st president, the commentators mean a laissez faire budget geek who won't spend, not even to stop an economic disaster. When the commentators want to be really nasty, they drop the Hoover reference and start talking about Andrew Mellon. By mentioning the man who served as Treasury secretary to Presidents Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover, they mean an etiolated Victorian Scrooge who argues for low taxes because he doesn't care about the people. They are also suggesting someone who relishes forced sales of distressed assets and damages the economy with his outdated policies. "Obama Liquidates Himself" was the snippy headline the Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman recently put on an entry to his New York Times blog that likened Obama and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to Mellon. The sinister "liquidate" verb is meant to evoke Mellon's response to the 1929 crash -- "liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate the farmer, liquidate real estates." The point of citing that "liquidate" line is to argue that liquidation spells Depression. Krugman links to a blogger, Jonathan Zasloff, who unkindly suggests that Treasury policy is being conducted in such a retrograde fashion that it recalled "the rotting corpse of Andrew Mellon."
January 21, 2010
Tax History: The Limited Lessons of 1937
There's been a lot of talk lately about 1937. That was the year of the so-called Roosevelt Recession, the second of two back-to-back slumps that we now conflate into a single Great Depression. Some members of the scrivening class seem to think we're poised to repeat "the great mistake," as Paul Krugman describes it: that fateful moment in the middle of the Depression when "spending was cut back, monetary policy was tightened -- and the economy promptly plunged back into the depths." The worriers aren't all liberals. Martin Feldstein, for instance, thinks the possibility of a renewed recession is real indeed. "There is a significant risk the economy could run out of steam sometime in 2010," he recently warned. The 2009 stimulus bill delivered less than advertised, and what modest lift it did provide seems likely to peter out soon, he said last month.
December 29, 2009
Paul Samuelson and Tax Policy in the Kennedy Administration
When Paul Samuelson died last month, there was much discussion of his textbook and Nobel Prize. But obituaries also noted his stint as an economic adviser to President Kennedy. As a member of the Kennedy brain trust, Samuelson played a vital role in shaping the landmark tax cut passed in 1964. Samuelson's position in the Kennedy administration was never official, but he was influential. Shortly after the 1960 election, he declined an appointment as chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, choosing instead to remain at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he had been teaching economics since 1940. Samuelson did agree, however, to chair a special economic advisory panel for the president-elect. In the weeks leading up to Kennedy's inauguration, that panel produced a report that proved -- more than most such documents -- to be highly significant.
December 3, 2009
News Analysis: Sacrifice and Self-Indulgence on the Home Front
It's become a commonplace of American politics to say that George W. Bush was the first president to endorse a tax cut during wartime. And generally speaking, it's true. Over the centuries, there have been other wartime tax cuts. But most were approved after a series of wartime tax increases, and none approached the scale of the cuts enacted during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
November 24, 2009
When Ideas Become Ideology
The Oxford English Dictionary defines ideology as "a systematic scheme of ideas, usually relating to politics or society." More specifically, the word describes a system of ideas "held implicitly or adopted as a whole and maintained regardless of the course of events." An ideology, in other words, is a set of ideas freed from the burden of evidence and rational argument. In fact, we shouldn't attach too much stigma to ideology. It's probably fair to say that ideas can't exist -- or at least make sense to anyone -- without an ideological superstructure around them. But what happens when a system of ideas distorts its constituent parts? What happens when ideas become ideology?
November 11, 2009
"Death Tax" Terminology: Accurate or Inflammatory?
Once upon a time, tax experts used the term "death tax" to refer to the federal estate tax without opprobrium. Back in the day, the term was not freighted with political baggage. Rather, it served as a sort of shorthand for any sort of levy imposed on estates or inheritances.
October 1, 2009
Tax History: Risky Business: Using Taxes to Insure Against Loss
Recently, Martin A. Sullivan railed against the risk inducements that pervade our tax system. Touching on everything from the bias toward debt over equity to the treatment of executive compensation, he made a compelling case for limiting provisions that encourage risk taking and risky behavior. But if risk-inducing provisions are so bad, how did they make it into law in the first place? Cynics will point to the influence of big business and special interests, and such nefarious characters have certainly played a part in the story. But many, perhaps even most, of these provisions began as well-intentioned ventures in creative public finance. If we want to understand the popularity of risk inducements in the tax system, we need to consider how risk and taxation were linked in the first place.
September 17, 2009
What We Can Learn from Social Security: Why Regressive Taxes Are Used to Fund Progressive Entitlements
As Congress gets serious about healthcare reform, money remains a stumbling block. Lawmakers have yet to agree on how to foot the bill for expanded coverage, and with the weather cooling down, arguments are sure to heat up. Besieged on every front, supporters of reform will cast about for new answers to an old question: What's the best way to pay for a major new entitlement? The history of Social Security can shed light on that question. For almost three-quarters of a century, this New Deal creation has defined the scope and shape of the American welfare state. In some respects, Medicare may seem the more appropriate analogue for the current debate over healthcare finance. But Social Security established enduring norms that crucially shaped Medicare funding. If we want to understand the best way to finance healthcare, we need to start by looking at the way we chose to finance retirement security.
September 3, 2009
The Power to Destroy? Child Labor and Taxation
In 1819 Chief Justice John Marshall famously observed that "the power to tax is the power to destroy." But does Congress have a license to destroy at will? For two centuries, Americans have been debating that question, and lawmakers have seen their power ebb and flow with the vagaries of judicial and political opinion. One important episode in this long-running argument unfolded 90 years ago, when Congress tried to regulate child labor, and the Supreme Court said no.
June 30, 2009
Early Proposals for an American VAT
The VAT is a relative newcomer in American policy circles. While the income tax has been a fixture of political debate since the 1860s, the VAT has been the focus of sustained consideration only since the 1970s. Or so you might think. In fact, the intellectual pedigree of the VAT runs a bit further back. It began long before Richard Nixon flirted with the idea in 1973, and even before European interest in the VAT blossomed during the 1950s. In fact, American interest in a VAT can be traced to the 1920s. In one form or another, Americans have been talking about a VAT for nearly a century.
May 21, 2009
News Analysis: Pop Goes the Soda Tax
So lawmakers are thinking about using a soda tax to help pay for healthcare reform. They should think again. History suggests that soda taxes are not popular. Or fair. Or durable. More generally, they are a poor choice for anyone looking to fund a vital -- and presumably permanent -- social program. Excise taxes are inherently unreliable. They are subject to attack and revision by political opponents, who will lobby long and hard against them. Entitlements need a more resilient fiscal foundation.
May 7, 2009
News Analysis: Reform for Sale, No Money Down
What's with all the down payments? Every time you turn around, the White House is making a "down payment" of some kind or another -- for healthcare, foreign aid, mass transit, energy independence, you name it. It's a puzzling metaphor to use in the midst of a mortgage crisis. It's also a confusing one. On March 5 President Obama described his $634 billion healthcare reserve fund as a "significant down payment that's fully paid for [and] does not add one penny to our deficit." This was real money (in theory, if not legislative reality), gathered from higher Medicare premiums and deduction limitations for well-off taxpayers. But a month earlier, Obama called the economic stimulus bill, replete with unfunded spending, a "down payment on the American Dream that serves our children and our children's children for generations to come." This was money out the door, not cash in the Treasury. Clearly, the White House has lumped several different concepts under the rubric of a down payment. (The rhetoric flows fast and loose in the Obama administration, but not always coherently.) Some down payments represent new revenue. Others describe new spending or programmatic reform. Still others cover both.
April 30, 2009
Who You Callin' a Tax Cheat?
In the spring of 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt launched a public campaign against tax avoidance. It was not his first. After taking office, the president raised the issue repeatedly. Indeed, the revenue acts of both 1935 and 1936 -- the crown jewels of New Deal tax reform -- had both been privately conceived and publicly defended as anti-avoidance measures. But in 1937, Roosevelt decided to take a more direct approach. During his first term, Roosevelt generally used tax avoidance as a justification for tax innovation. In 1935, for instance, he proposed a new federal inheritance tax to backstop the existing estate levy. In 1936 he argued that a new tax on undistributed corporate profits would bolster the personal income tax, forcing companies to disgorge profits they had previously sheltered from steep individual rates by retaining earnings in corporate coffers. By contrast, the 1937 anti-avoidance campaign was not designed to build the case for any sort of new levy. Rather, it was a simple and direct attack on popular avoidance techniques, and on the taxpayers who used them.
April 13, 2009
News Analysis: Show Us the Money
In a few days, President Obama will release his tax returns. So will Vice President Joe Biden and a smattering of other politicians around the nation. Willing to sacrifice privacy for the sake of transparency, they will offer us a glimpse into their personal financial lives. Now what about the rest of us?
March 26, 2009
News Analysis: What You Can't See Might Hurt You
Middle-income tax increases are the Higgs boson of Obamanomics. For those who skipped that day in Physics for Tax Jocks, the Higgs boson is a subatomic particle whose existence has been predicted by theory but never observed in reality. Scientists are pretty sure it exists, but they can't tell you what it looks like. Obama's tax policy has the same elusive quality. Sure, we know about a few things he wants to do. For everyone in a coma during the past year or so: He wants to raise taxes on the rich. Which is all well and good, especially for an unreconstructed New Dealer like me. But fat-cat tax hikes are not the solution to long-run fiscal problems. More to the point, everyone in Washington knows they aren't the solution. Neither are corporate tax reforms and beefed-up enforcement. All these things will help, but they won't close a fiscal gap that gets bigger every week.
March 12, 2009
News Analysis: A Class Act
Is America a class-blind nation? Conservative critics of the Obama administration seem to think so. "The U.S. has never been a society riven by class resentment," declared New York Times columnist David Brooks in a March 3 op-ed. "Yet the Obama budget is predicated on a class divide." Similarly, in a March 8 article in The Washington Post, Harvard economist N. Gregory Mankiw described Obama's proposed tax increases as a threat to prosperity -- and world peace: "If one citizen of a nation can lay claim to the wealth of his more productive neighbor, shouldn't poor nations have the right to lay claim to the resources of richer nations such as the United States?" Mankiw seems to believe that any sort of redistribution is morally dubious. Perhaps he's arguing for a head tax. But in any case, he too seems to endorse a class-free approach to domestic taxation. Well, that would be a first. The United States is not class blind -- not today, not yesterday, not ever. And American tax policy has never been class blind, either. The postclass conceit is a romantic misconception, grounded in political expedience and historical myopia. Ironically, whatever meager plausibility it can muster is actually testament to the importance of class in American tax politics, not its absence.
February 18, 2009
Book Review: Matt Miller's The Tyranny of Dead Ideas
Things are bad and getting worse, according to Matt Miller, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. Today's economic crisis is serious, threatening the employment of millions and the prosperity of everyone else. But the United States faces even bigger, if more diffuse, threats from global economic competition and rapid technological change. "The next decade will bring a collision of forces that threaten to disrupt U.S. society, sink the middle class, and call into question the political and business arrangements on which our prosperity and stability have rested for decades," Miller warns.
February 5, 2009
News Analysis: Do We Have a Tax Compliance Crisis in Washington?
The recent tax troubles of Timothy Geithner, Tom Daschle, and Nancy Killefer (not to mention Charlie Rangel) raise a serious question: Do we have a compliance crisis in the capital? Let's find out. I challenge the nation's top political leaders to release their tax returns. And I mean all our leaders. Every member of Congress, every Cabinet secretary, every member of the White House senior staff. Ridiculous? Not really. We already expect presidents to release their returns. And vice presidents, and presidential candidates, and all the associated spouses. Who decided to draw the line at the White House door? Members of Congress occupy a position of public trust every bit as serious, if slightly less exalted, than the president. So do members of the Cabinet and other high-ranking officials. If we expect presidents to sacrifice their privacy, why not the rest of them?
January 8, 2009
Talking Tax: Inaugurations and the Rhetoric of Revenue
When Barack Obama delivers his inaugural address next week, how much are we likely to hear about taxes? If history is any guide, not much. Tax professionals may find it hard to believe, but when new presidents reach for stirring rhetoric, they don't start talking tax. Democratic presidents have been particularly averse to inaugural tax talk. For a party reputed to love taxes, they clearly don't like to talk about them. Even the greatest tax-and-spender of all time, Franklin D. Roosevelt, proved unwilling to discuss the subject -- only once did he even mention the "T" word in three trips to the Capitol steps. (FDR's fourth inauguration, in 1945, took place at the White House, with festivities canceled because of the war; and no, he didn't talk about taxes then, either.)
December 18, 2008
Taxation in Colonial America
Alvin Rabushka has written an extraordinary history of early American taxation. Weighing in at 3 pounds, 5 ounces, and running to almost 1,000 pages, it's a big book. But it needs to be, for this is historical work on a grand scale. Rabushka has managed to compress into a single volume a detailed history of the colonial tax systems between the settlement of Jamestown and the beginning of the Revolutionary War. It's quite an accomplishment. After all, this is not one story but many. Every colony had its own distinctive -- and often dysfunctional -- tax system. Rabushka sets out to describe each one, and generally speaking, he pulls it off quite admirably. In dispassionate and even-handed prose, he tells a complex and detailed story. The resulting book is truly encyclopedic. It is not, mind you, a page-turner; the book is filled with too much disparate data to make for an easy read. But that's its signal virtue.
December 4, 2008
FDR's Unlikely Prescription: Tax Hikes for Recovery
In this corner, Amity Shlaes, senior fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations, Bloomberg columnist, and conservative slayer of liberal dragons. To her left, Paul Krugman, Nobel Prize winner, New York Times columnist, and spiritual leader of the Ancient and Hermetic Order of the Shrill (no kidding -- do a Google search). In recent weeks, Shlaes and Krugman have squared off on a key question: Did the New Deal work? In a series of articles and blog posts, they've traded insults and analysis. For my money, Krugman has gotten the better of the exchange, successfully defending Franklin Delano Roosevelt from charges that he prolonged the Great Depression with a decade of incoherent and often misguided policy improvisation. But are Shlaes and Krugman asking the right question? It's certainly relevant, given the prospect of a New Deal do-over in the Obama administration. But a myopic focus on the bottom line -- New Deal: success or failure? -- can obscure other important questions. And get in the way of useful lessons.
November 20, 2008
New Deal Taxes: Four Things Everyone Should Know
"Suddenly, everything old is New Deal again," according to Paul Krugman. And he's right: As darkness descends on the U.S. economy, almost everyone is reaching for Roosevelt. Newspapers are replete with Depression speculation, and pundits are pondering the prospects of a new New Deal. But much of today's New Deal nostalgia is deeply ahistorical. Liberals have engaged in more than a little romantic recollection, while conservatives have waged a dubious rearguard action to discredit New Deal achievements. So let's set the record straight on at least one key element of the New Deal: taxation. Here are four things that everyone should know about New Deal taxes.
November 6, 2008
News Analysis: Mandate Matters
Does Barack Obama have a mandate? Yes. Does it extend to taxes? Probably. Can Democrats agree on what it means? We'll see. Every election is followed by a mandate debate. Losers minimize their failure and winners exaggerate their success. Even close elections follow this pattern. When George W. Bush lost the popular vote in 2000, his partisans still claimed a mandate, albeit a slightly tarnished one. "Governor Bush after all received more votes than Bill Clinton, and we didn't see Bill Clinton be the least bit shy about advancing his agenda," one supporter told The New York Times. Obama enjoys a more plausible claim to a mandate. And many observers seem ready to grant him one. "His presidency is probably going to mark the end of the Reagan era," historian Robert Dallek told Newsweek. "I think you're going to see a whole new era of federal progressive activism."
October 30, 2008
The Meaning of a Tax Revolt
Thirty years ago, California voters approved Proposition 13, capping property taxes and recasting the fiscal landscape for decades to come. It was a crucial victory for the conservative movement and a watershed in American political history. The success of Proposition 13 signaled the end of the New Deal order and the start of a Republican ascendancy. Or maybe not. For decades, the passage of Proposition 13 has served as a creation myth for the modern conservative movement. And not without cause: The ballot initiative certainly presaged a new era in American politics. But Proposition 13 was not a grass-roots revolt against big government, at least not originally. As sociologist Isaac Martin points out in his outstanding new book, The Permanent Tax Revolt, it arose from a heterogeneous movement populated by liberals and conservatives.
October 16, 2008
The Rhetoric of Redistribution: Lessons From the 1930s
Joe the Plumber is a late-breaking star of the presidential campaign. Since confronting Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois during a campaign stop earlier this month, Joe Wurzelbacher has become a media darling, a stand-in for "average Americans" everywhere. In the process, he's given a star turn to a key policy issue: redistributive taxation. In their six-minute exchange, Wurzelbacher challenged Obama on his plan to raise taxes for those making more than $250,000 a year. The nominee began by noting his promised tax breaks for small business. Eventually, however, he took the bait. "I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody," he said. It's been a while since a leading Democratic nominee promised to share the wealth (hat tip to Huey Long). But it's about time.
October 6, 2008
Too Much: The Historical Link Between Bailouts and Pay Caps
Complaints about outsized executive pay have prompted Congress to include compensation limits in the recently passed Wall Street bailout measure. Are the limits a good idea? Maybe. Will it work? If history is any guide, probably not. In dollar terms, executive compensation is trivial. Even the huge paychecks common on Wall Street shrink to insignificance when compared to the size of the proposed bailout (or the liabilities of financial firms now in peril). To be sure, some compensation schemes reward short-term profit at the expense of long-term prudence. But the most salient arguments for executive pay caps -- at least in the political arena -- are moral, not practical.
October 3, 2008
Sarah Palin Tax Returns Now Available
Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin has released copies of her 2006 and 2007 personal tax returns. They are available for download and viewing at the Presidential Tax Returns website.
September 26, 2008
Speculation and Taxation: Time for a Transaction Tax?
High gas prices have prompted a search for scapegoats on Capitol Hill. Oil companies were the first to take the heat, as lawmakers cast a disapproving look at the record high earnings posted by Chevron, Exxon Mobil, and other malefactors of great profit. But the legislative upshot -- a tax on windfall profits -- hasn't gotten very far, despite support from Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. So maybe it's time for a new scapegoat.
September 22, 2008
Gas Tax Politics, Part I
For Herbert Hoover who started it all in 1932, the federal gas tax was a means to balance the budget. For Dwight Eisenhower in 1956, it was the means for financing the interstate highway system. But the modern era of gas taxation did not begin until October 17, 1973. That's the day the United States and other supporters of Israel in the Yom Kippur War found themselves victims of an international oil embargo. The once obscure Organization for Petroleum Exporting Countries closed the spigots on oil flowing to the West, and in the blink of an eye, the price of a barrel of oil jumped from $3 to $5.11. To add to the misery, OPEC raised the price again in January 1974 to $11.65. The U.S. economy, already facing unprecedented inflation, suffered its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
September 17, 2008
Tax Cuts, Confidence, and Presidential Leadership
How should a president respond to economic turmoil? Sympathy or reassurance? Confidence or concern? Occupants of the White House have usually erred on the side of optimism, while candidates for the top job have shown a penchant for gloom. So what happens when a president becomes a candidate?
September 2, 2008
Book Review: A World of Wealth
Some people want taxes that do everything: raise money, regulate business, reform society -- you name it. Many of these people are Democrats. Other people want taxes that do nothing (or at least not much). Many of these people are Republicans. Consider the raft of tax preferences cluttering up the Democratic presidential platform: a special exemption for senior citizens; an expanded child care credit; a new college tuition credit; a special exemption for start-up businesses. The list goes on.
August 5, 2008
Americans Hate Taxes, Don't They?
Americans hate taxes. Right? Like most generalizations, this one has an element of truth: Polls and election results seem to confirm a widespread antipathy toward taxes. But Americans are not uniquely antitax. People in other countries dislike taxes, too. And Americans are not inherently antitax. At various points in our nation's history, we have accepted a growing tax burden as the price of a growing government. But we can be forgiven if we tend to overlook this history of tax tolerance. For almost 40 years, American politics have been gripped by a sustained tax revolt. Or more precisely, by a sustained political dynamic fueled by antitax activism. Many of the most palpable effects have been felt at the local and state level -- hardly a surprise because subnational taxes were the original focus of grass-roots tax resistance in the 1970s. But antitax politics have been alive and well in Washington, too.
July 24, 2008
Taxes in the Shade of the Raintree
Some critics assert that the U.S. individual income tax in its current form has never been more intrusive or complex. However, an obscure circumstance that arose 60 years ago suggests otherwise. In early 1948, Bloomington, Ind., was the focus of the literary world. The book Sexual Behavior in the Human Male by Indiana University Prof. Alfred Kinsey was a national sensation, rising to number one on The New York Times nonfiction bestseller list. During the same period, the novel Raintree County by Bloomington native Ross Lockridge Jr. also reached the top of the Times fiction list.
July 18, 2008
A Decade After Restructuring Act, IRS Is Kinder and Better, Panelists Say
Despite any trauma the Internal Revenue Service Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998 may have caused at the time, the IRS in the 10 years since the law's enactment has become a better, more taxpayer-friendly agency, panelists at a July 18 conference sponsored by Tax Analysts agreed.
June 20, 2008
Full text: 1934 Ways and Means Committee Report on Tax Avoidance
In 1934, the House Ways and Means Committee conducted a vigorous investigation of tax avoidance. Eager to boost fairness and enhance the revenue productivity of the personal and corporate income tax, lawmakers were emboldened by the reformist energy of the Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal. In cooperation with the Treasury Department, they prepared a comprehensive report that eventually became the basis for the Revenue Act of 1934. Tax Analysts has published the full text of the committee report, "Prevention of Tax Avoidance."
May 28, 2008
Tax Analysts Exclusive -- Conversations: David Cay Johnston
For 13 years, David Cay Johnston covered taxes for The New York Times, winning a Pulitzer Prize for beat reporting in 2001. In April he left the Times to focus on new projects. Joseph Thorndike and Christopher Bergin interviewed Johnston on his last day at the Times, and later by e-mail. For his thoughts on tax history and current tax policy, take a look.
April 30, 2008
New Book on "War and Taxes": Read the Introduction
On May 6, the Urban Institute Press will release "War and Taxes," a new book exploring the history of American wartime finance. The authors -- Steven A. Bank and Kirk J. Stark of the UCLA School of Law, and Joseph J. Thorndike of Tax Analysts -- explore the nation's powerful tradition of homefront sacrifice. But they also warn against any temptation to mythologize the nation's fiscal history. Earlier generations accepted heavy new taxes as the price of freedom and security. But they often resisted and complained about those taxes, too. Politicians of the past -- like their successors  today -- made room for self-indulgence amid the sacrifice. Tax Analysts has published the introduction to the book.
April 22, 2008
Taxes, Trade, and the British Taste for Beer
Whatever happened to tariffs? For more than a century, they provided the bulk of federal revenue in the United States. They fueled the sectional tension that dominated politics before and after the Civil War. And ultimately, they -- and their regressive incidence -- helped drive the movement for a permanent federal income tax. For much of the nation's history, taxes and tariffs were inseparable -- two elements in the same political dynamic.
April 5, 2008
Clinton, McCain, and Obama Tax Returns Now Available
As part of its Presidential Tax Return feature, the Tax History Project has published tax materials released by the remaining 2008 presidential candidates: Sens. Hillary Clinton, John McCain, and Barack Obama.
April 2, 2008
Private Returns, Public Rewards: The Politics of Tax Records
Two weeks ago, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., released his tax returns and challenged Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., to do the same. Clinton, whose personal tax records from her years as first lady are already public, promised to release more recent filings sometime during this filing season. (Clinton released her tax returns after this article was submitted for publication. For coverage, see Doc 2008-7564 or 2008 TNT 67-4.) Meanwhile, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. -- who has released none of his tax returns to date -- has promised that he, too, will release something soon. Media comment has focused on the Clinton foot-dragging (and, to a lesser extent, on McCain's delay). But the fracas has obscured a more fundamental question: Should we care?
April 1, 2008
New Documents: Franklin D. Roosevelt's Tax Returns, 1913-1937
The Tax History Project has expanded its collection of presidential tax returns to include all of Franklin Roosevelt's returns from 1913 to 1937. These represent all returns available from the Roosevelt presidential library in Hyde Park, NY.
January 25, 2008
Profiles in Tax History: Roswell Magill
Roswell Foster Magill was an unlikely New Dealer. He came from a Midwestern family of impeccable Republican pedigree. He made his first venture into politics as a Treasury Department lawyer for the arch Republican tax cutter, Andrew Mellon. His father was a prominent and vociferous opponent of the New Deal, including its tax policies. And he finished his career as a leading critic of the progressive tax regime that he helped create during the 1930s. But Magill was indisputably one of the most important tax officials of the 1930s. His influence on the New Deal's signature tax measures, including the Wealth Tax Act of 1935 and the Undistributed Profits Tax of 1936, was relatively modest. But he played a vital -- and ultimately more lasting -- role in shaping plans for fundamental tax reform. Under his guidance and supervision, the Treasury Department developed a program that would eventually transform the income tax from a narrow levy on the rich to a broad-based tax on middle-income taxpayers.
November 27, 2007
Cartoon: The Home of the American Citizen After the Tax Bill Has Passed
Published on July 19, 1862, in Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper (a New York weekly), this cartoon shows four tax collectors searching the home of an "American citizen." As the agents search under his wife's dress and beneath his children's bed, the taxpayer pleads his case. The caption: "Scroggs says he is ready and willing to pay any amount of tax, but he would like them to leave his wife's crinoline and other domestic trifles alone."
August 22, 2007
The Tax Man at Your Door
As the sun climbed into the sky on July 29, 1953, Boston commuters made their way to work. For most, it was just another Wednesday, with cloudy skies and temperatures in the mid-80s. But for 280 employees of the IRS, the day was anything but ordinary. With orders from Washington, an army of revenue agents fanned out across the city, knocking on doors and looking for tax delinquents. The canvass, supervised by New England Regional Commissioner William A. Gallahan, was both simple and systematic. Agents across New England were assigned to particular streets and instructed to knock on the door of every business or residence. When taxpayers answered, they were asked whether they had filed a return for 1952. If yes, then they were asked for proof of payment — a receipt, perhaps, or a cancelled check.
June 14, 2007
The Promise and Peril of Symbolic Taxation
By almost any measure, inequality is on the rise. Since 1980, gains in business productivity have enriched a few lucky souls at the top of the economic pyramid but done little to improve the lot of typical workers. So what's driving that trend? According to many economists — and the right-leaning politicians who love them — it's all about education. In a modern, globalized, technology-driven economy, workers with relevant skills reap larger rewards than those without. If we want to shrink the growing gaps in wealth and income distribution, we should create a better educated, better trained workforce.
May 29, 2007
News Analysis: Conversations — Mark Schmitt
Mark Schmitt is a senor fellow at the New American Foundation, where he focuses on reform of the political process, campaign finance, congressional procedure, and state-level politics. He has written extensively on budget and tax policy and on the history and role of ideas in politics. He is a columnist for The American Prospect and a contributor to the blog TPMCafe. Before joining the New America Foundation, Schmitt was director of policy and research at the Open Society Institute; he also served for seven years as a speechwriter and later policy director for former Sen. Bill Bradle
April 15, 2007
Bush and Cheney 2006 Tax Returns Now Available
Tax Analysts had obtained copies of the 2006 tax returns filed by President Bush and Vice President Cheney.
April 12, 2007
The Number One Tax Reform
Taxes should be uncomfortable. Not especially painful, mind you — just a bit irritating. Enough to make you pay attention. Modest discomfort is an element of citizenship, reminding voters of the price they pay (thank you, Justice Holmes) for civilized society. But discomfort doesn't have to be scary. Or confusing. And the tax system we have today is both.
January 17, 2007
Economist Richard A. Musgrave Dead at 96
Richard A. Musgrave, one of the leading tax economists of the 20th century, died January 15 at the age of 96. Musgrave was a pioneer in the field of public finance; his 1959 book, The Theory of Public Finance, remained a classic for decades.
December 14, 2006
Out of (Re)alignment: Taxes and the Election of 1946
November 30, 2006
Security, Opportunity, and Tax Preferences
November 20, 2006
Direct Taxes Under the Constitution: A Review of the Precedents
November 16, 2006
Milton Friedman Dead at 94
October 18, 2006
The Tax Reform Act of 1986: What It Wasn't
September 26, 2006
Retail Revolt: Chain-Store Taxes in the 1930s
August 31, 2006
Inequality and Insecurity: Which Matters More?
July 10, 2006
A Century of Soaking the Rich: The Origins of the Federal Estate Tax
June 22, 2006
George Bush, Nonessential Conservative
June 8, 2006
Take It Away and Give it Back: The History of Refundable Gas Taxes
June 1, 2006
The Phone Tax: Gone but Never Forgotten
May 30, 2006
Tax Aversion and the Legacy of Slavery
May 16, 2006
The Perils of Populism
May 15, 2006
Tax Shelter Opinions Threatened the Tax System in the 1970s
May 9, 2006
Full Text: President John F. Kennedy's Special Message to the Congress on Taxation, April 20th, 1961
April 27, 2006
All Together Now
April 13, 2006
Two Cheers for Loopholes
April 6, 2006
The Secrets of Their Success
March 19, 2006
April 15: More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About Tax Day
March 9, 2006
CRS Analyzes Implications of 1980 Crude Oil Windfall Profit Tax
February 23, 2006
Rhetoric Meets Reality in the Democratic 'Flat Tax'
February 13, 2006
Wall Street, Washington, and the Business of Information Reporting
January 30, 2006
The Encyclopedia of Taxation and Tax Policy
December 14, 2005
A Tax Revolt or Revolting Taxes?
December 5, 2005
Historical Perspective: Sacrifice and Surcharge
November 10, 2005
Historical Perspective: The Windfall Profit Tax -- Career of a Concept
November 2, 2005
The Transfer of Ideas About Taxation Since 1750
October 31, 2005
Edwin R.A. Seligman and the Beginnings of the U.S. Income Tax
October 17, 2005
What's Old Is New Again: Historical Perspectives on Tax Law & Policy
October 11, 2005
Historical Perspective: What Goes Around, Comes Around
September 6, 2005
Historical Perspective: Ideas in Context
September 2, 2005
Déjà Vu All Over Again: The Selling of Tax Legislation
August 22, 2005
Andrew Mellon's Unsuccessful Attempt to Repeal Estate Taxes
July 18, 2005
Historical Perspective: Redistribute What?
May 26, 2005
News Analysis: Fair Tax, Bad Tax: The National Sales Tax's Insidious Influence
May 23, 2005
The Origins of the American Income Tax: The Revenue Act of 1894 and Its Aftermath
May 19, 2005
Tax Reform Cometh!
May 5, 2005
News Analysis: The Importance of Ideology
April 21, 2005
Historical Perspective: What You Don't Know Can Hurt You
April 15, 2005
New York Times Op-Ed: Hurts So Good
April 11, 2005
The Great Noncrisis of the AMT
April 11, 2005
President Nixon's Troublesome Tax Returns
March 24, 2005
News Analysis -- Historical Perspective: Lessons from 1986
January 18, 2005
Historical Perspective -- Death of a Policy Community?
January 10, 2005
Profile in Tax History: John Nance Garner
December 16, 2004
Tax Reform? Don't Count on It
November 29, 2004
'A Source of Frequent and Obstinate Altercations': The History and Application of the Origination Clause
November 9, 2004
CRS Report Summarizes History of FSC/ETI Controversy
October 6, 2004
Historical Perspective -- Profiles in Tax History: Randolph E. Paul
September 30, 2004
Historical Text: Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, Book 5
September 20, 2004
Historical Perspective: The Unhappy History of Private Tax Collection
September 17, 2004
1874 Ways and Means Report Urges Repeal of Private Tax Debt Collection Law
August 30, 2004
Private Tax Collectors: A Roman, Christian, and Jewish Perspective
June 14, 2004
Historical Perspective: The Reagan Legacy
March 1, 2004
Who Cares About Tax History? More People Than You Think!
February 3, 2004
Historical Perspective: APA Program Highlights IRS Struggle to Balance Privacy and Secrecy
January 1, 2004
1862 Federal Income Tax Return
December 5, 2003
Refinancing America: The Republican Antitax Agenda
November 26, 2003
The Depression and Reform: FDR's Search for Tax Revision in N.Y.
November 21, 2003
Slave Tax as Sin Tax: 18th and 19th Century Perspectives
November 14, 2003
Franklin Roosevelt, Agriculture, and New York Property Taxation
November 10, 2003
Historical Perspective: Pecora Hearings Spark Tax Morality, Tax Reform Debate
October 13, 2003
Our Fiscal Nonagenarian: The Income Tax Turns 90
August 28, 2003
The Republican Roots of New Deal Tax Policy
March 24, 2003
Was Andrew Mellon Really the Supply Sider That Conservatives Like to Believe?
January 13, 2003
The Power to Destroy: The Political Uses of the IRS From Kennedy to Nixon
December 27, 2002
Purging Out Pollock: The Constitutionality of Federal Wealth or Sales Tax
October 4, 2002
The Taxing Power, the Sixteenth Amendment, and the Meaning of 'Incomes'
September 2, 2002
Historical Perspective -- The Price of Reorganization: Fewer Audits and Tax Forgiveness
July 29, 2002
More Historical Perspective on Publication of Corporate Returns
July 8, 2002
Closing the Credibility Gap by Disclosing Corporate Returns
June 24, 2002
Rendered Implausible
June 17, 2002
Nixon Advised IRS Commissioner to Do His Job 'Honestly'
May 15, 2002
Not-So-Current But Still Quotable: IRS Disclosure in the 1920s
April 29, 2002
Civilization at a Discount: the Morality of Tax Avoidance
December 21, 2001
An Army of Officials: The Civil War Bureau of Internal Revenue
December 10, 2001
Historical Analysis -- The Tenacity of Tax Complexity
October 25, 2001
Wartime Tax Legislation and the Politics of Policymaking
January 19, 2001
CRS Report on History of Federal Taxes
April 13, 1998
A Flawed History of American Tax Revolts
February 9, 1998
The IRS Is Hiding Its History
September 1, 1997
The Plan That Slogans Built: The Revenue Act of 1943
December 17, 1996
Treasury's Case Against Education Tax Breaks
May 15, 1996
'Morgenthau's Morning Glory' -- The Progressive Spendings Tax Proposal
March 19, 1996
The Tax That Wasn't: Mid-Century Proposals For A National Sales Tax.
February 27, 1996
The Birth Pangs Of The Modern Income Tax -- An Early Treasury Study (Part 2).
February 27, 1996
The Birth Pangs Of The Modern Income Tax -- An Early Treasury Study (Part 1).
February 15, 1996
Historical Document: 'Facing The Tax Problem' -- Book Two, Analysis (Part II).
February 15, 1996
Historical Document: 'Facing The Tax Problem' -- Book Two, Analysis (Part I).
February 15, 1996
Historical Document: 'Facing The Tax Problem'-- Forward And Table Of Contents.
February 15, 1996
Historical Document: 'Facing The Tax Problem'-- Book One, Background.
February 15, 1996
Historical Documents: 'Facing The Tax Problem' -- Book Three, Conclusions.