Category Archives: Taxation

New Article: “Brackets: A Historical Perspective”

1040New Article: Tracey M. Roberts, Brackets: A Historical Perspective, 108 Nw. L. Rev. 925 (2014).  Abstract below:

This Article surveys the history of the U.S. income tax system from 1913 to the present, examining changes in the structure of the graduated rates system over the past 100 years, using inflation-adjusted dollars. By connecting these changes to key events in the history of the  United States, the Article contextualizes modifications Congress has made to the income tax over time as well as the current debate surrounding several proposals for reform. First, the Article demonstrates that the rate structure has become more flat (with lower rates and fewer brackets than in the past), compressed (with less graduation, steeper jumps between brackets, and less penetration of the rate schedule into the income strata), and complex (with the proliferation of tax expenditures) over time. Second, the Article reveals that the structures that would result from two of the tax reform proposals being discussed in the popular media resemble historical rates and brackets. Because these proposals for tax reform have analogs in earlier versions of the income tax, the Article argues that analysis of economic data from prior periods may help inform tax policy and identifies an agenda for future research.

Symposium Issue Published: “50 Years After the “War on Poverty”: Evaluating Past Enactments & Innovative Approaches for Addressing Poverty in the 21st Century”

Symposium Issue Published by the Boston College Journal of Law and Social Justice: “50 Years After the “War on Poverty”: Evaluating Past Enactments & Innovative Approaches for Addressing Poverty in the 21st Century”:

Vol. XXXIV No. 2

50 Years After the “War on Poverty”: Evaluating Past Enactments & Innovative Approaches for Addressing Poverty in the 21st Century

Introduction by Emily F. Suski

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Deadbeat Dads & Welfare Queens: How Metaphor Shapes Poverty Law

by Ann Cammett

Abstract: Since the 1960s, racialized metaphors describing dysfunctional parents have been deployed by conservative policymakers to shape the way that the public views anti-poverty programs. The merging of race and welfare has eroded support for a robust social safety net, despite growing poverty and economic inequality throughout the land. This Article begins by describing the […]

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50 Years After the “War on Poverty”: Evaluating the Justice Gap in the Post-Disaster Context

by Davida Finger

Abstract: The Legal Services Corporation (“LSC”), formed as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty, was one of many initiatives aimed at providing low-income individuals with equal access to justice. Today, the increasing number of people living in poverty, coupled with decreased funding for legal services, has resulted in a significant justice gap […]

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Left Behind with No “IDEA”: Children with Disabilities Without Means

by Alex J. Hurder

Abstract: This Article examines the changes to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”), which were intended to reconcile the Act with the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, and the effect those changes have had on the education of children with disabilities. The Article highlights the important role that parents were given in […]

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Heal the Suffering Children: Fifty Years After the Declaration of War on Poverty

by Francine J. Lipman & Dawn Davis

Abstract: Fifty years ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared the War on Poverty. Since then, the federal tax code has been a fundamental tool in providing financial assistance to poor working families. Even today, however, thirty-two million children live in families that cannot support basic living expenses, and sixteen million of those live in extreme […]

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From the “War on Poverty” to Pro Bono: Access to Justice Remains Elusive for Too Many, Including Our Veterans

by Patricia E. Roberts

Abstract: Fifty years ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson launched the War on Poverty. The Legal Services Program of 1965, along with the Legal Services Corporation formed in 1974, considerably increased civil legal aid to America’s poor. Yet today, there is only one legal aid attorney for every 6,415 people living in poverty. Veterans, comprising 4.6% […]

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New Article: “Reducing Inequality on the Cheap: When Legal Rule Design Should Incorporate Equity as Well as Efficiency”

New Article: Zachary Liscow, Reducing Inequality on the Cheap: When Legal Rule Design Should Incorporate Equity as Well as Efficiency, 123 Yale L.J. 2478 (2014).  Abstract below:

This Note develops a framework for understanding when policymakers should use equity-informed legal rules—rather than taxes—to redistribute. First, policymakers should choose the most efficient way to reduce income inequality, which may involve allocating legal entitlements to the poor, depending upon several factors described in the Note. Second, sometimes legal rules ought to account for non-income characteristics based upon which the tax system would be poorly equipped to redistribute.

New Article: “Heal the Suffering Children: Fifty Years after the Declaration of War on Poverty”

New Article: Francine J. Lipman & Dawn Davis, Heal the Suffering Children: Fifty Years after the Declaration of War on Poverty, 34 B.C. J. L. & Soc. Change 1 (2014).  Abstract below:

Fifty years ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared the War on Poverty. Since then, the federal tax code has been a fundamental tool in providing financial assistance to poor working families. Even today, however, thirty-two million children live in families that cannot support basic living expenses, and sixteen million of those live in extreme poverty. This Article navigates the confusing requirements of an array of child-related tax benefits including the dependency exemption deduction, head of household filing status, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and the Child Tax Credit. Specifically, this Article explores how altering the definition of a “qualifying child” across these tax benefits might provide financial relief for working families. The Article concludes that the elimination of the outdated requirement that a “child” be a citizen of the United States or a resident of North America would reduce tax-payer confusion and result in more tax benefits to help lift working families out of poverty.

New Article: “Unseating Privilege: Rawls, Equality of Opportunity, and Wealth Transfer Taxation”

New Article: Jennifer Bird-Pollan, Unseating Privilege: Rawls, Equality of Opportunity, and Wealth Transfer Taxation, 59 Wayne L. Rev. __ (forthcoming 2014).  Abstract below:

This Article is the second in a series that examines the estate tax from a particular philosophical position in order to demonstrate the relevance and importance of the wealth transfer taxes to that position. In this Article, I explore Rawlsian equality of opportunity, a philosophical position that is at the heart of much American thought. Equality of opportunity requires not only ensuring that sufficient opportunities are available to the least well-off members of society but also that opportunities are not available to other members merely because of their wealth or other arbitrary advantages. Therefore, an income tax alone, even one with high rates on the wealthy, would be insufficient to achieve these goals. While revenue raised via the income tax should be used to provide additional opportunities to low-income members of society, wealth transfer taxes provide the additional safeguard of preventing the heirs of wealthy individuals from inheriting wealth that would provide them with additional, unwarranted and unjust, opportunities. Given the importance of the wealth transfer taxes, this Article also examines the question of what form of tax is most consistent with Rawls’ position, ultimately determining that an inheritance or accessions tax best fits the role.

Were your parents rich? Maybe you should pay more in taxes. – The Washington Post

Were your parents rich? Maybe you should pay more in taxes. – The Washington Post.

New Article: “Inequality in America: Challenges for Tax and Spending Policies”

New Article: Eric M. Zolt, Inequality in America: Challenges for Tax and Spending Policies, 66 Tax L. Rev. 1101 (2013).  Abstract below:

The goal of this article is to provide a guide to addressing tax and spending policies in an era of increasing inequality of income and wealth. This is challenging because it requires a good understanding of inequality and economic mobility, the changing role of taxes and government social spending, the constraints on policy options, and the possible misconceptions that may influence tax and spending policies.

Inequality in the United States has increased dramatically over the last 30 years. Perhaps even more troubling than the rise in inequality may be the persistence of high levels of poverty and the decline in economic mobility. The same thirty-year period during which inequality has increased, poverty levels have not declined, and economic mobility has decreased has seen major changes in fiscal policy. Tax law changes have altered the relative tax rates, the relative revenue contributions from different tax instruments, and the tax burdens of different income groups. Government spending on social programs has increased substantially, but perhaps not in ways one might expect. The United States likely has a smaller percentage of government social spending going to the needy than other developed countries. In recent decades, an increasingly larger percentage of social spending has been directed to the elderly (without regard to need) and to the upper-half of the income distribution through tax subsidies for healthcare, education, housing, and retirement savings.

The essential first step in shaping fiscal policy is to identify clearly the relative priorities among reducing inequality, reducing poverty, and increasing economic mobility. Tax and spending policies will differ depending on the weight given each of these objectives, and especially in a world of relatively limited resources, the government needs to make difficult choices. Perhaps the most significant implication of this reality is that it may be time to stop thinking about increasing the income tax burden on the wealthy as the only, or perhaps even the primary, way to increase funding for social spending programs. The United States may need less progressive (or even regressive) taxes to fund more progressive spending programs.

Taxing Single Mothers: A Critical Look at the Tax Code | NYU Law Review

Taxing Single Mothers: A Critical Look at the Tax Code | NYU Law Review.

New Article: “The Social Security Benefits Formula and the Windfall Elimination Provision: An Equitable Approach to Addressing ‘Windfall’ Benefits”

New Article: Francine J. Lipman & Alan Smith, The Social Security Benefits Formula and the Windfall Elimination Provision: An Equitable Approach to Addressing ‘Windfall’ Benefits, 39 J. Legis. 181 (2013).  Abstract below:

Certain federal, state, and local government employees do not pay into the Social Security system, but rather pay into alternative government pension plans. For purposes of the Social Security Act, where a worker pays into an alternative government pension plan, the worker’s employment constitutes noncovered employment. Even if a worker’s employment record reflects significant periods of noncovered employment, the worker may still qualify for Social Security coverage because she satisfies the minimum requirement of 10 years (40 quarters) of earnings in Social Security covered employment. However, an employment record which reflects both covered and noncovered employment presents a challenge to equitable application of the Social Security Act. To determine the benefits to which a worker is entitled, the Social Security Act first employs an averaging provision that considers 35 years of covered employment. Where an individual’s employment record does not reflect 35 years of covered employment, the averaging provision compresses the worker’s average earnings. Effectively, a life-time high-income worker who held both covered and noncovered employment appears to be a life-time low-income worker by operation of the averaging provision. The second step in determining a worker’s Social Security benefits entails application of a progressive benefits formula to the workers average earnings. By operation of the averaging provision and the progressive benefit formula, a high-income worker who held both covered and non covered employment received a higher than statutorily intended replacement rate (the ratio of benefits to average earnings) prior to 1983. In an effort to downward-adjust Social Security benefits for worker who held both covered and noncovered employment, Congress enacted the Windfall Elimination Provision in 1983. This article presents and examines the Windfall Elimination Provision highlighting inherent problems in its design, which include structural and administrative issues that disproportionately impact low-income workers. The article also describes and examines public misperception and resentment of the Windfall Elimination Provision, and deficiencies in the Social Security Administration’s communication efforts. The article also describes considerable legislative efforts since its enactment to modify, replace, or repeal the Windfall Elimination Provision, providing an explanation and analysis of each bill. Finally, the article presents an alternative approach to eliminating the ‘windfall’ benefits that accrue to noncovered workers. The alternative approach balances the fundamental tenants of the Social Security system – a progressive benefits structure and the earned right nature of benefits. As such, the proposed legislative amendment (included in the appendix of the article) ensures equitable benefits to noncovered workers.

New Article: “Costly Mistakes: Undertaxed Business Owners and Overtaxed Workers”

New Article: Mary Louise Fellows & Lily Kahng, Costly Mistakes: Undertaxed Business Owners and Overtaxed Workers, 81 Geo. Wash. L. Rev. 329 (2013).