Thursday, September 1, 2011

tax expenditures

In writing the original 1974 Budget Control and Impoundment Act, some liberals inserted a requirement that each year's presidential budget submission include a list of "tax expenditures" -- the estimated revenue lost because of particular tax provisions. Each year, that list sits as a menu of options for Congress to raise revenues without raising percentage tax rates.

In the past year, more and more think tanks and commissions have seized upon items on the list for revenues to reduce future deficits. And even some Republicans have occasionally acknowledged that eliminating a tax break or "loophole" might be acceptable to those who have signed the "no new taxes" pledge.

I want to keep that hope alive,so I'm happy to draw attention to this new study by some tax policy analysts that explains how the tax expenditures work and why Congress is addicted to them. The authors also argue that using the tax expenditure approach rather than straightforward grants of federal money, makes it harder to achieve policy goals and creates an administrative burden on IRS that isn't well fulfilled.

Of course, as a homeowner [correction: as the owner of the right/obligation to pay a mortgage every month], I do very much like the home mortgage interest deduction. But if that's part of the price for sensible revenue increases, I won't bring out my pitchfork.

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