TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Avi-Yonah Presents Taxation, Inequality, and a Federal VAT Today at Penn

Avi-YonahReuven Avi-Yonah (Michigan) presents Taxation and Inequality and Designing a Federal VAT: Summary and Recommendations at Pennsylvania today as part of its Center for Tax Law & Policy Seminar Series hosted by Michael Knoll, Chris Sanchirico, and Reed Shuldiner:

Taxation and Inequality:
The United States currently has one of the highest levels of inequality in the OECD, as measured by the Gini coefficient before taxes and transfers. In addition, numerous scholars have shown that social mobility in the United States is significantly lower than it was in the period between 1945 and 1970, when inequality was also declining. The combination of these trends is dangerous because it risks transforming the US into a society where small elites capture most of the gains, a pattern in which growth cannot be sustained over time (Acemoglu and Robinson 2012, Zingales 2013). The level of inequality in the US after taxes and transfers are taken into account is much lower, but it is still higher than in most OECD countries and the trend is still for inequality to increase. This paper explores how the US tax system can be used to counter these trends and concludes that the key is not to increase taxes on the rich (although some reforms in this direction can be adopted), but instead to adequately fund and even strengthen the social safety net. The only way to do this in the medium to longer term is to adopt a VAT.

Designing a Federal VAT:
Part I of the article explains why the US needs a federal VAT. Part II summarizes the articles dealing with design features of the federal VAT, and Part III addresses coordination issues. Part IV concludes by offering specific recommendations.

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