The voices of Tax Policy Center's researchers and staff
To follow significant fiscal changes, such as those being driven by the legislative responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, it helps to have a background in state, local, and federal taxes.
The Tax Policy Center (TPC) has what you need to understand current law and keep up with new legislation: its newly updated Briefing Book. This online resource, which is TPC’s most popular product, contains a wealth of information on features of the current tax system and possible future changes. For example, it describes conventional sources of revenue such as individual and corporate income taxes, payroll taxes, excise taxes, estate and gift taxes, and state and local sales and property taxes. It also explains potential new revenue sources such as value-added and carbon taxes.
The Briefing Book explains many of the concepts used in tax, budget, and economic policy. Written for a general audience, it is intended to help the public, the press, students, and government staffers—anyone who wants to be well informed about current tax and budget matters.
Some sections provide background on the current state of tax and budgetary affairs: How much revenue does the federal government raise and from which sources? How does the budget process work? Others explain key elements of the tax system: What taxes are imposed by federal, state, and local governments? How do they affect individuals, families, and businesses?
Say you want to know how capital gains are taxed. The Briefing Book describes what capital gains are, how gains are taxed today, who benefits from preferential tax rates on investment income, and how the taxation of gains could be improved. It provides similar information about scores of other elements of the existing tax code.
Other sections look forward by evaluating proposals to improve the federal tax system: What incremental reforms would make the system work better? What would more fundamental reforms mean for taxpayers and revenues? And there are sections that examine how state and local governments raise funds and how those taxes interact with the federal tax system.
The Tax Policy Center Briefing Book is ideal for grazing. It isn’t a novel and you probably won’t start at the beginning and read through to the end. Rather, it allows you to pick a topic, read the basic information, and then follow links to publications with more detail. Or you can download complete sections on topics such as the tax treatment of multinational corporations—a handy resource for teachers and students.
TPC periodically expands and updates the Briefing Book as tax policy or the economy change. Please note that our current estimates for 2020 and later years are based on economic forecasts that exclude the economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic or legislative relief enacted this year. Keep checking back for the latest information.
Posts and comments are solely the opinion of the author and not that of the Tax Policy Center, Urban Institute, or Brookings Institution.