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

Monday, January 10, 2005

Shaviro Blasts Make-up of Tax Reform Commission

ShavirodDan Shaviro (NYU) is (to put it mildly) unimpressed with the make-up of President Bush's Tax Reform Commission (blogged here today and Friday):

With all due respect to the group, whose members generally deserve a great deal of respect, the membership of the commission tells me that we are not likely to get anywhere significant, be it good or bad, on tax reform.

For the most part, however, these are not people who have been heavily involved in thinking about or designing tax reform....And they are not, so far as I know, identified with particular approaches to tax reform. So they would have an uphill climb under the best of circumstances. And though they might come up with some interesting ideas if given the chance, I seriously doubt the White House is interested in finding out what they really think. This is not exactly a White House that cares much either for expertise or for delegating authority to those outside the charmed circle.

By the way, no tax practitioners. Those guys actually do know a lot, and serious tax reformers might want to involve them. No tax law professors, apart from Garrett who is excellent but really does her work elsewhere. And, while it's hard to quarrel with the choice of Poterba, many first-rate economists on both the left and the right have done extensive work that comes closer to the commission's territory.

So with all due respect to the generally high abilities of the commissioners, I think that the decision to choose this panel is evidence that fundamental tax reform (a) either is meant not to go anywhere, or else insufficiently meant to go anywhere in particular, and (b) will in fact not be going anywhere.

The Tax Guru also is unimpressed: 

[B]ased on the roster of people chosen as members of the official President's Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform, I don’t see how this time will be any more effective at doing anything but screw the tax code up even more.  While they claim to have a diverse mix of members, I can’t help but notice the glaring absence of any real life tax practitioners.  While politicians and academicians have their different viewpoints, there is no substitute for the real life world of doing actual tax returns and fighting with IRS on behalf of real people.  Contrary to popular belief, there are countless huge differences between the theoretical and real world applications of the tax system.  Ignoring the real world aspects is ridiculous and shows an utter lack of sincerity in this year’s stab at fixing the tax code.  I am surprised and disappointed that our first MBA president would establish such an incomplete panel and truly expect it to do any better than  the dozens of similar ones previously.

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I suspect the Commission on Tax Reform will be about as effective as we citizens make it. Perhaps it's to our advantage to have people who are a little more...shall we say "reachable"...than some of the experts you mention.

I hear that Sen. Mack has said he wants to hear from grassroots folk on this issue. That's pretty encouraging, I think. The experts are good at theories but those of us who struggle with Social Security incomes and budgets may be a little more practical in our input. And it sounds like this commission is willing to listen to us for a change.

Posted by: Sunnye Tiedemann | Jan 14, 2005 1:59:16 PM