William G. Gale is a vice president and director of the Brookings Institution's Economic Studies program, where he holds the Arjay and Frances Fearing Miller Chair in Federal Economic Policy. He is also founding codirector of the Tax Policy Center, a joint venture of the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute. James R. Hines Jr. is professor of business economics and research director, Office of Tax Policy Research, University of Michigan. Joel Slemrod is Paul W. McCracken collegiate professor of business economics and public policy, professor of economics, and director, Office of Tax Policy Research, University of Michigan.
The book addresses annual and lifetime distributional effects, saving, investment, transitional problems, simplification, home ownership and housing prices, charitable groups, international taxation, financial intermediaries and insurance, labor supply, and health insurance.
In addition to Henry Aaron and William Gale, the contributors include Alan Auerbach, University of California, Berkeley; David Bradford, Princeton University; Charles Clotfelter, Duke University; Eric Engen, Federal Reserve; Don Fullerton, University of Texas; Jon Gruber, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Patric Hendershott, Ohio State; David Ling, University of Florida; Ronald Perlman, Covington & Burling; Diane Lim Rogers, Congressional Budget Office; John Karl Scholz, University of Wisconsin; Joel Slemrod, University of Michigan; and Robert Triest, University of California, Davis.
As Albert Einstein may or may not have said, "The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax." Indeed, to follow the debate over tax reform, the interested citizen is forced to choose between misleading sound bites and academic treatises. Taxing Ourselves bridges the gap between the two by discussing the key issues clearly and without a political agenda: Should the federal income tax be replaced with a flat tax or sales tax? Should it be left in place and reformed? Can tax cuts stimulate the economy, or will higher deficits undermine any economic benefit? Authors and tax policy experts Joel Slemrod and Jon Bakija lay out in accessible language what is known and not known about how taxes affect the economy, offer guidelines for evaluating tax systems, and provide enough information to assess both the current income tax system and the leading proposals to reform or replace it (including the flat tax and the consumption tax).
The fourth edition of this popular guide has been extensively revised to incorporate the latest information, covering such recent developments as the Bush administration's tax cuts (which expire in 2011) and the alternatives proposed by the President's Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform. Slemrod and Bakija provide us with the knowledge and the tools—including an invaluable voter's guide to the tax policy debate—to make our own informed choices about how we should tax ourselves.
To follow the debate over tax reform, the interested citizen is often forced to choose between misleading sound bites and academic treatises. Taxing Ourselves bridges the gap between the oversimplified and the arcane, presenting the key issues clearly and without a political agenda. Tax policy experts Joel Slemrod and Jon Bakija lay out in accessible language what is known and not known about how taxes affect the economy and offer guidelines for evaluating tax systems—both the current tax system and proposals to reform it.
This fifth edition has been extensively revised to incorporate the latest data, empirical evidence, and tax law. It offers new material on recent tax reform proposals, expanded coverage of international tax issues, and the latest enforcement initiatives. Offering historical perspectives, outlining the basic criteria by which tax policy should be judged (fairness, economic impact, enforceability), examining proposals for both radical change (replacement of the income tax with a flat tax or consumption tax) and incremental changes to the current system, and concluding with a voter's guide, the book provides readers with enough background to make informed judgments about how we should tax ourselves.
Praise for earlier editions
“An excellent book.”
—Jeff Medrick, New York Times
“A fair-minded exposition of a politically loaded subject.”
Behavioral Public Finance looks at several facets of economic life and asks how behavioral research can increase public welfare. Deborah A. Small, George Loewenstein, and Jeff Strnad note that public support for a tax often depends not only on who bears its burdens, but also on how the tax is framed. For example, people tend to prefer corporate taxes over sales taxes, even though the cost of both is eventually extracted from the consumer. James J. Choi, David Laibson, Brigitte C. Madrian, and Andrew Metrick assess the impact of several different features of 401(k) plans on employee savings behavior. They find that when employees are automatically enrolled in a retirement savings plan, they overwhelmingly accept the status quo and continue participating, while employees without automatic enrollment typically take over a year to join the saving plan. Behavioral Public Finance also looks at taxpayer compliance. While the classic economic model suggests that the low rate of IRS audits means far fewer people should voluntarily pay their taxes than actually do, John Cullis, Philip Jones, and Alan Lewis present new research showing that many people do not underreport their incomes even when the probability of getting caught is a mere one percent.
Human beings are not always rational, utility-maximizing economic agents. Behavioral economics has shown how human behavior departs from the assumptions made by generations of economists. Now, Behavioral Public Finance brings the insights of behavioral economics to analysis of policies that affect us all.