Paul L. Caron

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Blaine Saito Posts Tax Papers On SSRN

Blaine Saito (Northeastern) has posted several tax papers on SSRN:

Collaborative Governance and the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, 39 Va. Tax Rev. 451 (2020):

The Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) is the largest federal program focused on increasing the supply of affordable housing. The credit is designed as a collaboration among the federal government, states, localities, developers, and investors. But it is not meeting its goals. Budget hawks have noted that costs have increased while units have fallen and that there is waste and fraud. Civil rights and equity advocates focus on how LIHTC exacerbates segregation and traps children in poverty. But the solutions proposed are atomized and disparate.

This Article seeks the root cause of these disparate problems. It draws on the concept of collaborative governance from public administration and administrative law as a framework for analysis. This analysis reveals that there are divergent preferences between the parties and the federal government. These divergent preferences are poorly managed and ineffectively monitored as-is, and the incentives indeed exacerbate these different preferences.

The Article then proposes a series of reforms based on these insights. It first suggests some internal reforms to the program, mainly directed at better aligning party incentives with federal goals and at having IRS improve its financial monitoring of the projects. But, most importantly, the proposal seeks to draw in the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to assist IRS in the management and administration of LIHTC. It provides a detailed framework as to how to achieve an effective interagency effort that can improve monitoring on other dimensions where IRS lacks expertise. This use of interagency efforts and the collaborative governance framework in LIHTC also serves as a case study of how to analyze and manage other social policy related tax expenditures.

Building a Better America: Tax Expenditure Reform and the Case of State and Local Government Bonds and Build America Bonds, 11 Geo. J.L. & Pub. Pol’y 577 (2013):

Currently, most subnational government borrowing in the United States is done via tax-exempt muni bonds. But these bonds are riddled with problems. They are inefficient at delivering the subsidy, and they create economic distortions of investment choices. They are inequitable, and they have significant democratic deficiencies. Direct payment Build America Bonds (BABs) provide a better alternative, as they directly pay a cash subsidy to a subnational govern- ment. There are simple, technical problems that can easily be remedied, but BABs also face significant political hurdles that will prevent the permanence of the program. Policy entrepreneurship is a way forward. This article also discusses how the analysis used here can also be used on other tax expenditure matters.

Note, The Value of Health, Wealth, and Dominion: Economic Theory, Administrability, and Valuation Methods for Capping the Employer Sponsored Insurance Tax Exemption, 48 Harv. J. on Legis. 235 (2011):

The recent passage of health reform introduces a tax that many policy wonks love but much of the public hates. This initiative is the so-called Cadillac Tax on high-value health insurance plans. For years, economists have argued that the exclusion of employment sponsored insurance (“ESI”) from taxable income represents a major distortion in the tax code that incentivizes overinsurance, which in turn causes overutilization of medical ser- vices and rising health costs. They tout the tax as a tool to help control costs and end inefficient distortions. They also claim that the tax is beneficial for lower- and middle-income individuals because the ESI exclusion in the Internal Revenue Code (“I.R.C.”) § 106 disproportionately benefits the wealthy.

However, there are problems with the Cadillac Tax. Since the inception of ESI, the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) and the Department of the Treasury (“Treasury”) have excluded it from income to avoid the complex matter of valuing health insurance. There are numerous other concerns involving the administration and proper drafting of the I.R.C. provisions pertaining to the ESI tax, since § 106—the section of the code which excludes ESI—links to many other parts of the fractured Code. While most of the policy debate focused on the economic gains and revenue raising power of the Cadillac Tax, few considered these problems. Yet, ease of administration is another important factor that one must consider in any tax debate, especially one involving an uncharted area like this one.

The provisions in the recently enacted Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“PPACA”)1 and the Reconciliation legislation2 embrace the benefits of taxing ESI. However, the PPACA uses a flat excise tax with few adjustments across the board. While this approach is easy to administer, it fails to push as effectively toward equity and efficiency gains that a cap on the § 106 exclusion could provide, another tool for reforming ESI taxation that will be discussed throughout this Note. Thus, the so-called Cadillac Tax is a good idea that has been poorly legislated.

This Note seeks to outline the key points in the debate involving the PPACA Cadillac Tax and attempts to establish a framework for analyzing valuation methods. While the Note finds the PPACA’s approach administratively simple, it finds the tax lacking in that it veers too far from the goals of efficiency and equity that an ESI cap might achieve. Two ESI cap proposals are analyzed: one based on premium value adjustments and the other based on actuarial values. Both are difficult to administer, but each seeks to achieve more equitable outcomes than those provided by the Cadillac Tax. Of the two proposals outlined, actuarial valuation holds the greatest promise at succeeding in the balancing act between efficiency, equity, and administration.

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On December 20, 2019, President Trump signed into law a bill fully repealing the 40% "Cadillac Tax" on employer-provided health care coverage.

Posted by: Tara | May 24, 2020 11:17:28 AM