Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

McCaffery: The Conflicting Masters of Tax—Revenue-raising And Redistribution

Edward J. McCaffery (USC; Google Scholar), The Conflicting Masters of Tax:

America does not redistribute wealth from its richest citizens. This Article sketches out the conflict between revenue-raising and redistribution that has shaped American tax policy and practice for at least a century and resulted in the sacrifice of redistributive taxes on the altar of the state’s revenue-raising needs. In theory and in practice, the tax system is not a direct generator of redistribution but rather serves as the efficient means to redistributive acts left offstage. Flattened wage taxes emerge as the main source of revenue. The wealthiest pay no tax. This Article examines the tension between the two masters of tax, revenue-raising and redistribution; illustrates with a case study of Senator Bernie Sanders’ wealth tax proposal; and concludes with hopes for using tax systems to better serve redistributive ends, in both theory and practice.

The most important step is the articulation of clear and discrete redistributive goals, in addition to and independent of the specific goal of getting resources to the poor.

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