Joel Slemrod: "Tax Policy Expresses the Priorities of the Country"
Tax expert offers criteria for judging tax policies' equity, efficiency and simplicity
ANN ARBOR, Mich. Tax expert Joel Slemrod presented voters a primer to evaluate tax systems and discussed the tax plans of the U.S. presidential candidates in a non-partisan forum held Oct. 28 at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan.
"Tax policy expresses the priorities of the country, including the role of government in the economy," said Slemrod, who cited three criteria for judging tax systems and proposals:
Equity or fairness
Does the tax system assign the tax burden in accord with Americans' notion of fairness? Is the sharing of the tax burden fair across income groups and across generations? "A deficit is nothing more than a code word for talking about intergenerational fairness," Slemrod said.
Does the tax system interfere with how well the economy operates?
Does the tax system achieve equity and efficiency goals with a minimum of cost and confusion? Slemrod estimated Americans spend approximately three billion hours each year preparing and filing tax returns.
Most tax policy discussions must confront trade-offs between equity, efficiency and simplicity, said Slemrod, who also answered questions about fundamental tax reform, tax policies for U.S. companies that move operations offshore and the future of Social Security.
Slemrod, the Paul W. McCracken Collegiate Professor of Business Economics and Policy at the Ross School, directs the school's Office of Tax Policy Research and was senior staff economist for tax policy at the President's Council of Economic Advisers in 1984-85. He addressed the tax plans of the presidential candidates in the context of his book "Taxing Ourselves: A Citizen's Guide to the Debate over Taxes." A third edition of the book recently was released.
One hundred members of the business school and Ann Arbor community attended the event sponsored by the school's Kresge Library.
For more information, contact:
Mary Jo Frank