Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Tax Fairness: In Search Of Justice And Representation

Alice G. Abreu (Temple), Jacqueline Laínez Flanagan (American) & Peter Mason, Tax Fairness: In Search of Justice and Representation, 172 Tax Notes Fed. 1457 (Aug. 30, 2021):

Global Roundtable is a regular series appearing in Tax Notes Federal, Tax Notes State, and Tax Notes International that brings together experts from each discipline to help advance the discussion of tax issues. In this installment, the authors examine the lack of racial diversity in the tax profession and built-in biases in tax policies and suggest ways to remedy the inequities.

Alice G. Abreu, Why Is Tax So White?:
Tax lawyers are crucial to the formulation and implementation of tax policy, and tax policy reflects the values and priorities of those who make it. But as Professor Rick Greenstein and I demonstrated in “Rebranding Tax/Increasing Diversity” (96 Denver L. Rev. 1 (2018)), the tax bar is much less diverse than the bar as a whole. This is especially disturbing because it is well known that the bar is much less diverse than the general population. And that lack of diversity may be contributing to the existence of tax law that disproportionately favors white taxpayers, directly and indirectly.


Jacqueline Laínez Flanagan, Seeking Tax Justice for Undocumented Immigrant Workers:

In a recent law review article [Reframing Taxigration, 87 Tenn. L. Rev. 629 (2020) (reviewed by Hayes Holderness (Richmond) here)], I argue economic considerations should ideally advance meaningful immigration reform, noting the immigration system is neither efficiently addressing the need for migrant labor nor effectively stemming the tide of unlawful entries. My proposal for a way forward recommends systemic changes to increase tax compliance by directly connecting tax return filings with immigration benefits. This proposal revisits a component of previous immigration reform bills and makes tax compliance the architectural centerpiece of any potential future reform, recognizing key incentives inherent in our tax system.

Peter Mason, Fairness: Racism in Taxation:
It is with a heavy heart that I start with the conclusion that there is racism in taxation. I personally deplore discrimination in every walk of life, in every place, and on every level. In my opinion, there is inadequate representation throughout our taxation profession for many ethnic minority groups. This is the overt evidence that racism exists in taxation today. To be truly representative, any organization or profession should mirror the society or group of people it represents. In that way, it can best address the needs of all its people fairly and justly. Although the tax profession does not create the political agenda, it advises and influences legislation that frames and controls the levying of tax through tax authorities, advisers, and business. A truly diverse taxation profession should therefore drive fair taxation for all its people.

It is with deep regret that I look back over my 40-year career and realize that I have employed very few tax professionals from ethnic minorities. I do not believe that this was by intent, although no person can rule out unconscious bias. I grew up in North London, in mixed-race communities, and I have never considered myself in any way racially discriminatory. I believed in a fair and rigorous recruitment process for my tax teams to employ the best people. I chastise myself now for not deploying positive discrimination to redress any imbalance in my teams. I had naively failed to recognize that sometimes what is best emerges in other ways.

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