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Taxing Ourselves A Citizen's Guide to the Debate over Taxes

ISBN-10: 0262693631
ISBN-13: 9780262693639
Edition: 4th 2008
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Description: 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  More...

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Book details

List price: $30.95
Edition: 4th
Copyright year: 2008
Publisher: MIT Press
Publication date: 2/8/2008
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 396
Size: 6.00" wide x 8.75" long x 1.25" tall
Weight: 1.452
Language: English

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 Ourselvesbridges 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.

Joel Slemrod is Paul W. McCracken Collegiate Professor of Business Economics and Public Policyand Director of the Office of Tax Policy Research at the University of Michigan.

Jon Bakija is Associate Professor of Economics at Williams College and Visiting Associate Professor of Law at Cornell University Law School, 2007-2008.

Preface
Introduction
Complaints about the Current Tax System
A Different Way to Tax
Objections to Radical Reform
Changes in the Context of the Current System
The Need for Objective Analysis
What's in This Citizen's Guide
An Overview of the U.S. Tax System
How Governments in the United States Get Their Money
International Comparisons
Historical Perspectives on the U.S. Tax System
Personal Income Taxation
Basic Features of the U.S. Corporate Income Tax
The Social Security Payroll Tax
Estate and Gift Taxes
Conclusion
Fairness
Vertical Equity and Tax Progressivity
Horizontal Equity: Equal Treatment of Equals
Transitional Equity
Conclusion
Taxes and Economic Prosperity
Taxes and the Business Cycle
Budget Deficits and Surpluses
How Much Should Government Do?
Tax Cuts to Force Spending Cuts versus Surpluses to Prepare for an Aging Population
How Taxes Affect Long-Run Economic Prosperity
A First Cut at the Evidence
How Taxes Affect Economic Prosperity
The Specifics
Conclusion
Simplicity and Enforceability
How Complicated Is Our Tax System?
What Makes a Tax System Complicated?
What Facilitates Enforcement?
Conclusion
Elements of Fundamental Reform
A Single Rate
A Consumption Base
A Clean Tax Base
Conclusion
What Are the Alternatives?
How the Consumption Tax Plans Work
At What Rate?
Simplicity and Enforceability of the Consumption Tax Plans
Distributional Effects of the Consumption Tax Alternatives
Economic Effects of Consumption Tax Plans
Conclusion
Starting from Here
Integration: Eliminating the Double Taxation of Corporate Income
Corporate Welfare and Corporate Tax Shelters
Inflation Indexing
Capital Gains
Savings Incentives in the Income Tax
The Estate Tax
Simplifying the Income Tax
Technological Improvements and the Promise of a Return-Free System
The President's Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform
A Hybrid Approach: Combining a VAT with Income Taxation
Conclusion
A Voter's Guide to the Tax Policy Debate
Tax Cuts versus Tax Reform
Tax Cuts as a Trojan Horse
The Devil Is in the Details
The Tax System Can't Encourage Everything
Fairness Is a Slippery Concept but an Important One
Be Skeptical of Claims of Economic Nirvana
The Tax System Can Be Improved
A Double Witching Hour
Notes
References
Index

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