Friday, March 15, 2019
George Yin (Virginia) presents Who Speaks for Tax Equity and Tax Fairness: Stanley Surrey and the Tax Legislative Process at Boston College today as part of its Tax Policy Workshop Series hosted by Jim Repetti, Diane Ring, and Shu-Yi Oei:
This article examines and assesses Stanley Surrey’s view of the federal tax legislative process. One of the most influential tax professionals of the twentieth century, Surrey is likely best known for his advocacy of specific tax policy ideas. But Surrey saw legislation as the prime route for adoption of most of his ideas, and he thus focused and provided many commentaries on the tax legislative process. He drew on extensive experience with the process, serving two lengthy terms (almost 20 years) in the Treasury Department, and remaining closely involved with it throughout his academic years.
This article shows that Surrey strongly believed that Treasury should play the dominant role in the legislative process because it had the most expertise and was essentially the only participant to defend tax equity and tax fairness. He never wavered in his belief even after his view was very closely scrutinized during his confirmation hearing to be Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, and even following periods when he thought the Treasury Department had not acted in the public’s interest. Treasury dominated the legislative process to some extent during roughly the first two decades of the modern income tax but it never reached the same level of influence during Surrey’s lifetime. In fact, the changes in the process that Surrey experienced generally moved it further and further away from his preferred outcome. This article provides evidence that some of Surrey’s experiences with congressional staff during his first term in government may have played a formative role in his thinking.