Friday, October 18, 2019
Leslie Book (Villanova) presents Administrative Burdens, Sludge, and Individual Taxpayer Rights (with Keith Fogg (Harvard)) at Florida today as part of its Tax Colloquium Series:
The tax system designed by Congress imposes significant administrative burdens on taxpayers. Decisions by the IRS regarding how it administers the tax laws can add to the burdens imposed by Congress. The administrative burdens are consequential and hurt some people, especially lower or moderate-income individual taxpayers, more than others. While the IRS strives to measure and reduce the time and money that taxpayers spend to comply with their tax obligations, the IRS does not consider the effect that administrative burdens have on taxpayer rights, including the right to be informed, the right to pay no more than the correct amount of tax, and the right to a fair and just tax system. In this article, building on the work of public administration scholars Pamela Herd and Don Moynihan, we discuss the concept of administrative burdens and reveal specific examples of how IRS actions and inaction have burdened taxpayers and jeopardized taxpayer rights.
In addition to identifying and contextualizing these problems, building off the insights of Cass Sunstein who refers to a subset of these burdens as sludge, we then propose that the IRS conduct and report on internal “sludge audits” to evaluate when it would be appropriate to reduce, eliminate or shift burdens away from citizens and onto the government or third parties.