Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Hoffer Presents Tax Legislation In Crisis Today At Toronto

Stephanie Hoffer (Indiana-Indianapolis; Google Scholar) presents Tax Legislation in Crisis at Toronto today as part of its James Hausman Tax Law and Policy Workshop:

Srhoffer (1)The United States Congress often uses tax law as a mitigation tool in times of crisis. Passing tax legislation during a crisis imposes political, informational, and time constraints that preclude lengthy consideration of distributional and other policy concerns embedded in often complex legislation. Crisis-driven tax legislation from the pandemic, for instance, has incorporated ideas from two decades ago without re-examining those approaches in light of twenty years’ worth of data, changes in the economy, science, and legal thought, to name a few relevant considerations.

The broader work of which this essay is a part addresses three hypotheses. First, crisis tax legislation is formulaic, generally including a number of provisions drawn from prior tax crisis bills.  Second, subsequent crisis tax legislation tends to expand the scope of provisions repeated from earlier crisis tax legislation. Third, among recurring provisions, privately-directed outlays via tax expenditure will outweigh Congressionally-directed outlays.

This study reviews tax legislation passed in response to crises from 2000 – 2020. The result is a positive account of prior legislation, highlighting recurring statutory provisions and patterns of distribution, coupled with ideas about how Congress might improve its tax legislative process in response to crises.

A better understanding of recurring crisis-motivated tax provisions is important in light of deepened concern about historical inequities, the wealth gap, and new scholarship about the effect of tax law in society.  In short, there is little evidence to suggest that Congress closely considers distributive concerns raised by such provisions, leaving room for creative thought about how to address them in the future.

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