Henry J. Aaron is a senior fellow in Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution, where he holds the Bruce and Virginia MacLaury Chair. Among his many books are Can We Say No? The Challenge of Rationing Health Care, with William B. Schwartz and Melissa Cox (Brookings, 2006), and Reforming Medicare: Options,Tradeoffs, and Opportunities, written with Jeanne Lambrew (Brookings, 2008). 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.
Despite its theoretical elegance, the standard optimal tax model has significant limitations. In this book, Joel Slemrod and Christian Gillitzer argue that tax analysis must move beyond the emphasis on optimal tax rates and bases to consider such aspects of taxation as administration, compliance, and remittance.
Slemrod and Gillitzer explore what they term a tax-systems approach, which takes tax evasion seriously; revisits the issue of remittance, or who writes the check to cover tax liability (employer or employee, retailer or consumer); incorporates administrative and compliance costs; recognizes a range of behavioral responses to tax rates; considers nonstandard instruments, including tax base breadth and enforcement effort; and acknowledges that tighter enforcement is sometimes a more socially desirable way to raise revenue than an increase in statutory tax rates. Policy makers, Slemrod and Gillitzer argue, would be well advised to recognize the interrelationship of tax rates, bases, enforcement, and administration, and acknowledge that tax policy is really tax-systems policy.