Rethinking Estate and Gift Taxation

Brookings Institution Press
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Although estate and gift taxes raise a small fraction of federal revenues, they have become sources of increasing political controversy. This book is designed to inform the current policy debate and build a conceptual basis for future scholarship. The book contains eleven original studies of estate and gift taxes, along with discussants' comments. The essays provide background and historical information; analyze the optimal taxation of estates and gifts; examine the effects of the tax on charitable contributions, saving behavior, the distribution and level of wealth, tax avoidance and tax evasion; and explore the effects of alternatives to estate taxation.
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About the author

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.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Brookings Institution Press
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Published on
Jul 1, 2011
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Pages
528
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ISBN
9780815719861
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Personal Finance / Taxation
Business & Economics / Taxation / General
Political Science / Public Policy / Economic Policy
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Social Security law has changed! Get What’s Yours has been revised and updated to reflect new regulations that took effect on April 29, 2016.

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The fourth edition of a popular guide to the key issues in tax reform, discussing the current system and alternative proposals clearly and without a political agenda.

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.

The new edition of a popular guide to the key issues in tax reform, presented in a clear, nontechnical, and unbiased way.

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.”
—Kirkus Reviews

Behavioral economics questions the basic underpinnings of economic theory, showing that people often do not act consistently in their own self-interest when making economic decisions. While these findings have important theoretical implications, they also provide a new lens for examining public policies, such as taxation, public spending, and the provision of adequate pensions. How can people be encouraged to save adequately for retirement when evidence shows that they tend to spend their money as soon as they can? Would closer monitoring of income tax returns lead to more honest taxpayers or a more distrustful, uncooperative citizenry? Behavioral Public Finance, edited by Edward McCaffery and Joel Slemrod, applies the principles of behavioral economics to government's role in constructing economic and social policies of these kinds and suggests that programs crafted with rational participants in mind may require redesign.

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.

The private pension system, together with Social Security, has provided millions of Americans with income security in retirement. But over the past thirty years, pension coverage has stagnated, leaving behind some vulnerable groups. Defined contribution plans have exposed workers to greater investment risk, while cash balance and other hybrid plans may have adverse effects on older workers caught in the transition. Pension regulations, infamous for their complexity, can be bewildering to policy analysts and policymakers. Private Pensions and Public Policies sheds timely and much-needed light on specific issues within the broader context and framework of pension reform. Contributors focus on topics that must be addressed in any reform effort, including the effects of the shift in emphasis toward defined contribution plans (after the 1974 Employee Retirement Income and Security Act) and hybrid plans (from the 1990s); regulatory issues such as nondiscrimination rules and contribution limits; how to increase the information available to participants and improve financial education; how participants in defined contribution plans make choices on questions such as asset allocation, back-loaded versus front-loaded saving, and annuities versus lump sum distributions; and the interaction of the private pension system with Social Security. Contributors include Robert L. Clark (North Carolina State University), Sylvester J. Schieber (Watson Wyatt Worldwide), Richard A. Ippolito (George Mason University School of Law), Alan L. Gustman (Dartmouth College), Thomas L. Steinmeier (Texas Tech University), John Karl Scholz (University of Wisconsin), Dean M. Maki, (JPMorgan Chase), William Even (Miami University of Ohio), Jagadeesh Gokhale (American Enterprise Institute), Laurence J. Kotlikoff (Boston University), Mark J. Warshawsky (TIAA-CREF Institute), Annika Sunden (Boston College), Andrew A. Samwick (Dartmouth College), David A. Wise (Harvard University), Joel Dickson (The Vanguard Group), Peter Merrill (PriceWaterhouseCoopers), Kent Smetters (Wharton School), Yuewu Xu (TIAA-CREF Institute), Janemarie Mulvey (Watson Wyatt Worldwide), Peter Orszag (Sebago Associates, Inc.), James M. Poterba (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), John B. Shoven (Stanford University), Clemens Sialm (University of Michigan), Leslie E. Papke (Michigan State University), Jeffrey R. Brown (Harvard University), and Michael Hurd (RAND Corporation).
The private pension system, together with Social Security, has provided millions of Americans with income security in retirement. But over the past thirty years, pension coverage has stagnated, leaving behind some vulnerable groups. Defined contribution plans have exposed workers to greater investment risk, while cash balance and other hybrid plans may have adverse effects on older workers caught in the transition. Pension regulations, infamous for their complexity, can be bewildering to policy analysts and policymakers. Private Pensions and Public Policies sheds timely and much-needed light on specific issues within the broader context and framework of pension reform. Contributors focus on topics that must be addressed in any reform effort, including the effects of the shift in emphasis toward defined contribution plans (after the 1974 Employee Retirement Income and Security Act) and hybrid plans (from the 1990s); regulatory issues such as nondiscrimination rules and contribution limits; how to increase the information available to participants and improve financial education; how participants in defined contribution plans make choices on questions such as asset allocation, back-loaded versus front-loaded saving, and annuities versus lump sum distributions; and the interaction of the private pension system with Social Security. Contributors include Robert L. Clark (North Carolina State University), Sylvester J. Schieber (Watson Wyatt Worldwide), Richard A. Ippolito (George Mason University School of Law), Alan L. Gustman (Dartmouth College), Thomas L. Steinmeier (Texas Tech University), John Karl Scholz (University of Wisconsin), Dean M. Maki, (JPMorgan Chase), William Even (Miami University of Ohio), Jagadeesh Gokhale (American Enterprise Institute), Laurence J. Kotlikoff (Boston University), Mark J. Warshawsky (TIAA-CREF Institute), Annika Sunden (Boston College), Andrew A. Samwick (Dartmouth College), David A. Wise (Harvard University), Joel Dickson (The Vanguard Group), Peter Merrill (PriceWaterhouseCoopers), Kent Smetters (Wharton School), Yuewu Xu (TIAA-CREF Institute), Janemarie Mulvey (Watson Wyatt Worldwide), Peter Orszag (Sebago Associates, Inc.), James M. Poterba (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), John B. Shoven (Stanford University), Clemens Sialm (University of Michigan), Leslie E. Papke (Michigan State University), Jeffrey R. Brown (Harvard University), and Michael Hurd (RAND Corporation).
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