The Structure and Reform of the US Tax System
Where the US tax system stands today, how it evolved, and how it should be changed.
The structure and reform of the US tax system is one of today's most hotly debated issues. This book provides a clear description of where the system stands today and how it evolved. Most importantly, it outlines the principles by which a tax system should be designed and assesses current flat-tax and consumption-based proposals for tax reform in terms of whether they measure up to these principles. An introduction and summary provide an overview of the tax system, (including sources of revenue and trends in sources) and its relative impact on various groups and industries. Chapter 2 describes the current US tax structure and its incidence, and corrects a number of common misconceptions (income from capital is actually taxed less heavily than income from labor; the rich generally do not pay an appreciably higher proportion of their income in taxes than poorer groups.) Basic issues and problems in tax policy are analyzed in chapter 3, which points out that there is no strong scientific basis for believing that shifting income taxes from capital to labor or from upper to lower income groups would have a substantial long-run effect on saving or capital formation; in fact, the adverse impact on the labor supply could outweigh the beneficial effect on capital formation. The final three chapters take up the major types of taxation: personal income taxes, corporate income taxes, and consumption taxes. Attention is focused in particular on the congressional "flat tax" proposals by Bradley-Gephardt and Kemp-Kasten (the Treasury's proposal is summarized in the book's preface). A concluding chapter examines the advantages and disadvantages of two new forms of taxation-the value-added tax, which has been used extensively in Europe, and the as yet untested comprehensive cash-flow tax that has received substantial academic support in recent years. These consumption-based taxes represent a substantial departure from the present US tax structure, which is based primarily upon income.