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3 Colum. J. Tax L. 1 (2011-2012)

handle is hein.journals/colujoutl3 and id is 1 raw text is: ARTICLES
Tax Expenditures, Reform, and Distributive Justice
Linda Sugin
Tax reform is coming, and it will be an important part of any plan to avert
national fiscal disaster.  The President's Fiscal Commission recently presented a
proposal for comprehensive tax reform that will form the basis for serious legislative
discussion. At the center of that proposal is elimination of tax expenditures,  which are
provisions in the tax law that operate like direct government spending. They include the
charitable deduction, the home mortgage interest deduction, the exclusion for employer-
provided health insurance, the child credit, the earned income credit, education credits
and deductions, the tax preference for retirement savings accounts like IRAs and 401(k)
plans, and dozens of others.
This article argues that elimination of tax expenditures is a flawed approach to
tax reform. Tax expenditures are not an undifferentiated mass, but reflect a wide variety
offederal policies, each of which requires independent evaluation. Before policymakers
can decide whether to abolish tax expenditures, they need to know a lot more than the tax
expenditure budgets currently reveal about what tax expenditures do, who benefits from
them, and how much revenue could be raised by their repeal.     They also need to
decisively identify which provisions are tax expenditures, a perennial source of
disagreement. This article argues that proposals to repeal tax expenditures reflect a
normative preference for efficiency over equity, the traditional twin goals of tax policy,
squandering the tax law's unique role in economic justice.
* Professor, Fordham Law School. I am grateful to the participants in the Tax Policy Center
Conference, Starving the Hidden Beast, the University of Colorado School of Law Tax Policy Workshop, the
Loyola Law School Tax Policy Colloquium, and particularly Edward Kleinbard, Daniel Shaviro, and
Benjamin Zipursky for comments on earlier drafts.

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