Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Kleiman: Improverishment By Taxation

Ariel Jurow Kleiman (Loyola-L.A.; Google Scholar), Improverishment By Taxation, 170 U. Pa. L. Rev. 1451 (2022):

Upenn law reviewViewed in the aggregate, the U.S. fiscal system is progressive, reduces inequality, and cuts poverty. The system improves on market outcomes by transferring income from rich to poor. Yet this bird’s eye view rings hollow on the ground, where millions of taxpayers across the United States are made poor or poorer by paying their state and federal taxes. In truth, while the U.S. fiscal system may be broadly equalizing and poverty reducing, for many struggling households, it is impoverishing.

This Article offers a new way to measure taxation of low-income households in the United States, presenting a concept called fiscal impoverishment. Taxpayers are fiscally impoverished when they are made poor or poorer by paying state and federal taxes, after accounting for certain offsetting cash or near-cash public benefits they are likely to receive. Distinct from the aggregate and anonymous measures by which we typically assess our tax and transfer system, fiscal impoverishment is dynamic and individualized. It highlights individual human dignity and implicates the economic responsibilities of the state vis-à-vis low-income taxpayers.

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