Understanding Tax Policy: The Economics of Taxation

Aug 18, 2004Aug 20, 2004
B-339 Rayburn House Office Building


Session One: August 18, 2004 
A Tax Primer: Economics, Politics, and Reform 
Hon. Maurice McTigue
Former Cabinet Minister and Member of Parliament, New Zealand
Mercatus Center at George Mason University

Session Two: August 19, 2004 
Untangling the Fairness Issue
Dr. Michael Marlow

Professor of Economics
California Polytechnic State University 

Session Three: August 20, 2004 
Tax Expenditures: What Happens In the Real World? 
Dr. Michael Marlow
Professor of Economics
California Polytechnic State University 

Click Here to listen to audio archive.

Within the universe of public policy, perhaps no issue generates more controversy and confusion than tax policy. Seemingly every political candidate, economist, and pundit has a different recipe for a better code. Consensus often seems impossible as debates around competing schemes dissolve into a blizzard of conflicting or meaningless statistics.

Yet understanding tax policy outcomes needs to begin with a firm grounding in economic fundamentals. Before one can evaluate the impact of any particular proposal, for instance, one must first understand how taxes affect the incentives of individuals and firms.

By focusing on the principles that underlie the current tax debates, this course will develop a multi-layered framework for analysis of tax policy. Participation in this program will allow you to better address the following questions:

  • What are the primary justifications for various taxes?
  • What is meant by “fairness” in the context of tax policy? Why does this generate such confusion? In particular, how do equity principles apply to social security taxes?
  • What are the economic and social trade-offs of different types of taxes and taxation systems?
  • What are the intended and unintended outcomes of tax credits and deductions? How do they differ from direct taxation, and why is their use on the rise?
  • What are the implications and effects of “double taxation” of the income from limited liability companies? Who typically bears the economic costs associated with these types of taxes?
  • Are there particular consequences to the taxation of Internet commerce?

In addition to gaining a “toolbox” for effective tax policy decision-making from this program, these exclusive sessions will give attendees the opportunity to expand their knowledge of tax issues through discussions with leading scholars and practitioners with real-world experience.