Tuesday, March 6, 2018
Lisa Philipps (Osgoode Hall) presents Gendering the Analysis of Tax Expenditures: Bridging Two Solitudes in Canadian Fiscal Policy at NYU today as part of its Tax Policy Colloquium Series hosted by Lily Batchelder and Daniel Shaviro:
This paper seeks to connect two fiscal policy files that have attracted significant scholarly and public interest in Canada since the 2015 election of a new federal government led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Within a few months the government acted on an election promise by launching a Federal Review of Tax Expenditures. This was followed by a second, less anticipated announcement that it would undertake a gender-based analysis of budget measures. The federal budget of March 2017 included an inaugural Gender Statement, with a commitment to further develop this tool in future. Each of these projects carries important potential for fiscal reform but they have so far unfolded in parallel, conceptually isolated from one another. Our research considers what additional insights could be gained by bringing the two together. How might a gender analysis further illuminate the distributive impacts, behavioural effects and cost efficiency of tax expenditures? And what are the limitations of a gender budgeting exercise that focuses on direct spending measures, without equal attention to the revenue side of the budget and specifically tax expenditures? ...
The Canadian government’s initial construction of tax expenditure analysis and gender budgets as separate exercises is consistent with a long history of gender blindness in the structures of economic thought and economic policy making (Bakker 2011; Cohen 2013; Elson 2012). It fits with a traditional view of taxation in particular as a gender neutral area of policy making, where equity issues are defined exclusively in terms of the distribution of income or wealth among abstract individuals, households, or decile groups (Infanti 2009; Philipps 2011). While a purely income-oriented analysis is revealing in some ways, this paper has shown that other critical issues emerge when gender is factored into the picture. We have also speculated, albeit without sophisticated demographic data, on how this analysis might be further enriched by accounting for other identify factors like race, sexuality, immigrant status, age, and disability. A first step in this direction would be to promote collaboration and cross-pollination of expertise across different fiscal and economic policy exercises.
As the government looks to develop an enhanced Gender Statement for future budgets, including tax policy will be essential. Likewise, tax expenditures as a major instrument of public policy should be reviewed in light of their impact on diverse groups of equality seeking Canadians.