During the 2016 presidential election campaign and well into the term of the next president, you will hear many confusing tax and budget terms. Who gets a repatriation tax holiday? What is a VAT? When is it the same as a flat tax? And how do corporations invert themselves anyway?
Ever wonder how candidates and elected officials seem to know so much about these obscure topics? It is because they have the advantage of a briefing book, a binder full of questions and answers prepared by their staffs that cover most every tax and budget topic.
This thoroughly updated version of the popular Tax Policy Center Briefing Book gives you a chance to level the playing field. It includes a wealth of information on those tax and budget issues that likely will be debated during the 2016 presidential election campaign and during the next president’s term. Unlike those other briefing books, ours is for the public, the press, and anyone who wants to be well informed about current tax and budget matters.
What Is the Briefing Book?
The Tax Policy Center Briefing Book offers short explanations of important tax issues. Some simply provide background on the current state of tax and budgetary affairs: How much revenue does the federal government raise from which sources? How does the budget process work? Others explain the key elements of the tax system: What taxes are now on the books? How do they affect individuals, families, and businesses? How do those effects change over time? Still others look forward, evaluating various proposals to improve the federal tax system: What incremental reforms would make the system work better? What impacts would more fundamental reforms have? Many entries examine how state and local governments raise funds and how their taxes interact with the federal tax system.
The candidates in the 2016 presidential race have proposed strikingly different ways to change the federal tax system, ranging from massive tax cuts to enormous tax increases. Evaluating these proposals requires a clear understanding of the complexity, fairness, and efficiency of the current tax system and the implications of proposed changes. Beyond the election, the same kind of analysis will help elevate the debate over fiscal policy changes that will be debated in the next administration and Congress.
How Is the Briefing Book Organized?
The briefing book is organized into four topic areas: background, key elements of the US tax system, possible reforms, and state and local taxes. Links at the end of each entry take you to references containing additional information. The glossary provides definitions of many technical terms related to taxation and budgeting.
Background: discusses general aspects of the tax system.
Key Elements of the US Tax System: discusses specific aspects of our tax system and how they affect taxpayers.
How Could We Improve the Federal Tax System: addresses changes that could make the current tax system simpler, fairer, and more efficient.
The State of State (and Local) Tax Policy: examines how state and local governments raise funds to finance government services and other activities.
Glossary: defines many terms used in the briefing book.
How to Use the Briefing Book
The Tax Policy Briefing Book is not like other most other books: There is no beginning, middle, and end, and few readers will start with the first brief and read straight through to the last. Instead, you can pick a topic, read the basic information, and then follow the links to publications if you want to learn more. You may occasionally want to check online for new material as we will periodically expand and update the online book.
The Tax Policy Briefing Book: A Citizens’ Guide to the Tax System and Tax Policy is the result of many people’s efforts. In addition to the authors listed below, certain people deserve special credit for their roles in bringing the current briefing book to fruition. Len Burman conceived the briefing book and laid out its basic structure. Peter Passell, Fiona Blackshaw, Elizabeth Forney, David Hinson, and Michael Marazzi edited the entries. Joey Teitelbaum and Elena Ramirez, with assistance from Lydia Austin, coordinated the project and created all of the graphs and tables. Rynnel Laughlin and Yifan Zhang posted the entries and set up the web links. Frank Sammartino reviewed each entry and oversaw the book’s content and organization.