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Political Activity Limits and Tax Exemption: A Gordian's Knot (Research Report)
Roger Colinvaux

The article considers the correct tax treatment of political activity, examines administrative and legislative options to problems raised, and concludes that after the Citizens United decision, definitional political activity limits on noncharitable exempts should be eliminated, but only if the 527(f) tax on investment income remains vital and there are uniform donor disclosure rules. In addition, Congress should: extend the income tax to transfers of appreciated property to noncharitable exempts, take steps to prevent the laundering of independent expenditures through the charitable form, and develop a new tax baseline for political activity conducted "for profit" or outside of section 527.

Published: 08/25/14
Availability:   PDF


Tax Expenditures for Asset Building in 2014 (Article/Tax Facts)
C. Eugene SteuerleCaleb Quakenbush

Government directs a large amount of resources toward helping families build assets in the form of home equity, retirement savings, human capital, and business ownership. This Tax Fact summarizes the cost of different asset-building tax subsidies. These tax expenditures total to more than $370 billion in 2014 and are projected to grow to more than $500 billion over the next 5 years. Deductions and exclusions for homeownership and retirement savings form the majority of subsidies, with education coming in a distant third. Smaller subsidies for small business and other personal savings round out the total.

Published: 08/20/14
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Corporate Inversions (Article)
Kimberly A. Clausing

Recently, there has been a spate of corporate inversions, where U.S. multinational corporations have combined with foreign companies, arranging their corporate structure to locate the residence of the resulting corporation in a foreign country with an attractive corporate tax climate. This paper will discuss both the longstanding features of the U.S. tax system that provide incentives for corporate inversions and the reasons for the present surge in inversions. If unfettered, corporate inversions are likely to undermine the U.S. tax base, so swift policy action is likely warranted. Inversions can be effectively addressed in a targeted fashion.

Published: 08/20/14
Availability: HTML | PDF


Corporate Tax is Broken and Needs Major Surgery (Commentary)
Eric ToderAlan Viard

In a contribution to the Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch Inc., Eric Toder and Alan Viard argue that recent highly publicized tax avoidance transactions by U.S. corporations reflect basic flaws in how we tax the income of multinational corporations, and that proposed reforms that maintain current definitions of corporate residence and source won’t fix the underlying problems. They propose two fundamental structural reforms – seeking international agreement on rules for allocating the income of multinational corporations among countries, or scrapping the U.S. corporate income tax entirely and replacing it with taxation at ordinary income rates of dividends and accrued gains of U.S. resident shareholders.

Published: 08/06/14
Availability: HTML


What Every Worker Needs to Know About an Unreformed Social Security System: Testimony before the Subcommittee on Social Security Committee on Ways and Means, United States House of Representatives (Testimony)
C. Eugene Steuerle

In this testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee Subcommittee on Social Security, Eugene Steuerle, Institute Fellow and Richard B. Fisher Chair at the Urban Institute discusses the fairness, efficiency and adequacy questions that arise almost no matter how much growth Congress maintains in Social Security. In particular he addresses three troubling aspects of an otherwise successful program: unequal justice; middle age retirement; and impact on the young.

Published: 07/29/14
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How To Stop Corporations From Fleeing U.S. Tax Laws (Commentary)
Eric Toder

In a contribution to The Wall Street Journal's MarketWatch, Eric Toder explains why corporations expatriate from the United States and argues that they will continue to do so until Congress addresses the fundamental flaws in the corporate income tax. He then provides some possible solutions to end the erosion of the U.S. corporate tax base.

Published: 07/28/14
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Constitutional Solutions to Our Escalating National Debt: Examining Balanced Budget Amendments: Testimony of Henry J. Aaron to the House Judiciary Committee (Testimony)
Henry J. Aaron

Henry J. Aaron testifies before the House Judiciary Committee, arguing that despite the relatively high levels of current government debt and the budget challenges that the nation faces in the future, instituting a federal balanced budget amendment would negatively impact the economy and threaten the nation's financial stability. Aaron notes five main reasons a balanced budget amendment should not be passed or implemented.

Published: 07/25/14
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Implications for Changing the Child Tax Credit Refundability Threshold (Article/Tax Facts)
Elaine MaagLydia Austin

This Tax Fact explores the child tax credit’s refundability thresholds since its inception. Currently, the CTC is a $1,000-per-child credit that is partially refundable for households earning more than $3,000. This Tax Fact explores the distribution of credits when the refundability threshold rises to $15,000 in 2018, and finds that families in the lowest income quintile would be affected the most.

Published: 07/24/14
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Abuse of Structured Financial Products: Misusing Basket Options to Avoid Taxes and Leverage Limits: Testimony Before the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs (Testimony)
Steven Rosenthal

In this testimony before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Steve Rosenthal describes how two hedge funds, with the help of two investment banks, purported to convert short-term trading profits into long-term capital gains with derivatives—which lowered the tax rate on their gains from 35% to 15% (the difference in rates for short-term and long-term gains for most of the years in question). He explains why he believes the funds stretched the tax law to achieve their goal. He also recommends legislation to address the misuse of derivatives more comprehensively.

Published: 07/22/14
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State Economic Monitor: July 2014 (Newsletter)
Norton FrancisKim RuebenRichard C. Auxier

The latest edition of the Tax Policy Center's State and Local Finance Initiative's State Economic Monitor reports that states are still struggling to emerge from the lingering recession. The good news is that nearly all states experienced economic growth in 2013, and only one state has an unemployment rate above 8 percent. But few states have fully recovered from the 2007 downturn, and new problems are arising. State tax revenues were down in the first quarter, driven by a significant decline in income tax revenue, and a non-government forecast estimates that the revenue drop may become even more severe. The Monitor also reviews the health of other aspects of state economies such as total employment, real earnings, and housing. This edition’s special supplement highlights a new Urban Institute report on public pension plans.

Published: 07/09/14
Availability:   PDF

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