Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

U.S. Tax Systems Need Anti-Racist Restructuring

BlackTaxpayersMatterFollowing up on my previous post, Palma Joy Strand (Creighton) & Nicholas A. Mirkay (Hawaii), Racialized Tax Inequity: Wealth, Racism, and the U.S. System of Taxation, 15 Nw. J. L. & Soc. Pol’y 265 (2020):  Francine J. Lipman (UNLV), Nicholas A. Mirkay (Hawaii) & Palma Joy Strand (Creighton), U.S. Tax Systems Need Anti-Racist Restructuring, 168 Tax Notes Fed. 855 (Aug. 3, 2020):

The world has witnessed the brutal suffocation of George Floyd on a concrete sidewalk in Minneapolis. While this is but one more example of centuries of relentless violence against Black people, many are hoping that this tragic death might be a catalyst for meaningful change. Around the world, rallies, marches, and vigils have filled public spaces to call out institutional racism and demand systemic change. The rage, despair, exhaustion, and frustration with targeted discrimination has not only permeated cities and streets, but racism is being condemned at kitchen tables, by businesses, in social media, and from groups as sweeping as Sesame Street, KPop fans, and NASCAR. People across the globe are raising their voices and insisting that something be done to stop the routine ruin of Black lives.

Many are looking to Black leaders in every discipline, including finance, economics, and tax, and asking what they can do to help. And Black leaders — once again, after centuries of explaining, exposing, discussing, writing, speaking, preaching, demanding, and demonstrating that American institutions are implicitly and explicitly discriminatory and must fundamentally change — are providing thoughtful, cogent answers. They rise to the challenge again and again, hoping that this horrific racist episode will be different from countless previous episodes. They call for a transcendent time of tangible change. However, they are rightfully saying that this is not their burden to bear, and that those with the privileged status of race, income, wealth, and platforms must step up, move forward, and finally do something. We have heard from many of our Black and brown colleagues that they are “sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

As writers, we understand the power of words. But it is also true that actions speak louder than words. As Maya Angelou said so poetically, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” (Emphasis added.) What can we as tax professionals, scholars, and advocates do to show our commitment to racial justice?

First, we must recognize that tax injustice is economic injustice, which leads directly to income and wealth inequality; pervasive poverty; and the compromised health, welfare, and safety of communities of color. The immorally high and persistent 32 percent rate of poverty for Black children and the 380 percent higher death rate of Black individuals from COVID-19 as compared with their white counterparts are real-world problems that can be remedied. However, real remedies will require all hands on deck, because these issues are long-standing systemic harms created and perpetuated by federal, state, and local institutions over the last 400 years.

This article will help you think more critically about these issues. It discusses the racist history of U.S. tax systems, prescribes anti-racist action items, and provides a wealth of referenced readable resources. ...

The foregoing suggestions are but a handful of the necessary steps to begin to combat over 400 years of economic disadvantage for Black households. The racialized inequities perpetuated by current tax systems and the continuing discriminatory effects of federal, state, and local governmental tax policy must be acknowledged and then affirmatively eliminated. We must name and describe systemic racial inequity to move toward true racial equity. This goal can be accomplished only if we collectively make the conscious choice to take anti-racist actions in our daily lives. We must rebuild our institutions, systems, and businesses using an anti-racist framework. #BlackTaxpayersMatter is a simple but profound anti-racist statement, and we encourage tax scholars and professionals to take intentional actions to make this simple hashtag a reality by acknowledging and recognizing white advantage and Black disadvantage, and working to interrupt explicit and implicit racism in our tax systems.


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Gerald: "You're missing the systemic racism that has existed in America for over 400 years."

That's a great slogan that should be very easy to substantiate empirically. You have the floor: Please do so in regards to all the things he listed. Show us how they all originate in centuries of racism and directly and negatively affect the social outcomes of black Americans today.

I'm all ears...

Posted by: MM | Aug 6, 2020 8:03:11 PM

"Am I missing something?" It appears that you are. You're missing the systemic racism that has existed in America for over 400 years. It manifests itself in various ways.

Posted by: Gerald Scorse | Aug 6, 2020 10:57:25 AM

My list of things that are racist (as gleaned from TaxProf blog posts):

- Bar exams
- The tax code
- Property tax assessments
- Teacher evaluations (a/k/a the students LOL)
- Murals depicting black history
- Bar discipline
- Soda tax

Am I missing something? I'd love a complete list. It would make the ridiculousness quite stark.

Posted by: Anon | Aug 5, 2020 1:47:39 PM

We get it, we get it. Everything is racist. Leave us alone. We don't care. And won't be made to care. Find another grift.

Posted by: Anon | Aug 5, 2020 1:35:40 PM

"The immorally high and persistent 32 percent rate of poverty for Black children and the 380 percent higher death rate of Black individuals from COVID-19 as compared with their white counterparts are real-world problems that can be remedied."

I see absolutely no correlation, let alone causation, between these social outcomes, which have definite social causes, and the U.S. tax system.

And I'm also seeing an astonishing lack of specifics here as to what actions are being proposed, other than suspend equal protection under the law so that the IRS can treat people differently based on the color of their skin.

Raise your hand if you support the argument that "whites", Asians, and Jews should pay more in taxes because of those characteristics.

Posted by: MM | Aug 4, 2020 7:37:10 PM

Can anything be discussed other than racially any more?

Posted by: Mike Livignston | Aug 4, 2020 3:15:09 AM