Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Read My Lips: Why Citizens Are Proud to Pay Taxes

5 perfect 10's! #OTD 50 yrs ago, the 737 made its first flight. Learn more about where we are today: #avgeek
— Boeing Airplanes (@BoeingAirplanes) April 9, 2017

The Walmart Tax Every American Taxpayer Pays USA Today Note the subsides are ~$50 per US household and 1/4 of WalMart’s 2014 pre-tax income (and a higher % of US-only income). 

“THROUGHOUT history, poverty is the normal condition of man,” wrote Robert Heinlein, a science-fiction writer. Until the 18th century, global GDP per person was stuck between $725 and $1,100, around the same income level as the World Bank’s current poverty line of $1.90 a day. But global income levels per person have since accelerated, from around $1,100 in 1800 to $3,600 in 1950, and over $10,000 today.
Economists have long tried to explain this sudden surge in output. Most theories have focused on the factors driving long-term economic growth such as the quantity and productivity of labour and capital. But a new paper* takes a different tack: faster growth is not due to bigger booms, but to less shrinking in recessions. Stephen Broadberry of Oxford University and John Wallis of the University of Maryland have taken data for 18 countries in Europe and the New World, some from as far back as the 13th century. To their surprise, they found that growth during years of economic expansion has fallen in the recent era—from 3.88% between 1820 and 1870 to 3.06% since 1950—even though average growth across all years in those two periods increased from 1.4% to...The history of growth should be all about recessions Faster growth is not due to bigger booms, but to less shrinking

Polsky (2015)Gregg Polsky (Georgia) presents Elite Tax Professionals Behaving Badly: The Sad and Sordid Management Fee Waiver Saga at Washington & Lee today as part of its Faculty Workshop Series:

For at least the past 15 years, many private equity fund managers have used a technique—known as a management fee waiver—to try to claim what is effectively their weekly paycheck as a capital gain. Recently, the Treasury and IRS explained that, at least in the government’s view, the vast majority of fee waivers do not actually provide the claimed tax result. Recent reports of significant audit activity relating to fee waivers suggest that the fee waiver saga may finally be coming to an end, but not before billions of tax revenues that are beyond the statute of limitations have been lost forever.

Dina Pomeranz (Harvard), Paul Carrillo (George Washington) & Monica Singhal (Harvard),Dodging the Taxman: Firm Misreporting and Limits to Tax Enforcement:

Reducing tax evasion is a key priority for many governments, particularly in developing countries. A growing literature has argued that the ability to verify taxpayer self-reports against reports from third parties is critical for modern tax enforcement and the growth of state capacity. However, there may be limits to the effectiveness of third-party information if taxpayers can make offsetting adjustments on less verifiable margins. We present a simple framework to demonstrate the conditions under which this will occur and provide strong empirical evidence for such behavior by exploiting a natural experiment in Ecuador. We find that when firms are notified by the tax authority about detected revenue discrepancies on previously filed corporate income tax returns, they increase reported revenues, matching the third-party estimate when provided. Firms also increase reported costs by 96 cents for every dollar of revenue adjustment, resulting in minor increases in total tax collection.

       The winners of the big Czech literary prize(s), theMagnesia Litera, were announced a few days ago, with the novel Jezero, by Bianca Bellová, winning book of the year; see also the information page at Czech Lit, or the (Czech) Hostpublicity page. It is cheerfully described in the Prague Daily Monitor report as: "a post-apocalyptic parable of environmental destruction followed by the destruction of human relations and individual souls", so that sounds fun. 
       In fact, all the winners sound real ... upbeat: 'best Czech prose of the year' went to a novel about: "immigrants who come Europe to seek a better life and lose their illusions", the journalism category was won by a book: "focused on everyday life in the district of the Brno city called Bronx, inhabited by Romanies and poor people in general", while 'the prize for the discovery of the year' went to an autor: "presenting his own experience from hospitals and hospices and from his conversations with the dying and their close relatives". 
       Still, the prize seems to be very successful: in a preview article at Radio Praha David Vaughan has a Q & A with 'Magnesia Litera's media-savvy founder, Pavel Mandys', aboutMilking the Magnesia Litera Awards to the Maximum. 

Read My LipsThe Brookings Institution is hosting a panel discussion today to mark release of the new book by Vanessa S. Williamson, Read My Lips: Why Americans Are Proud to Pay Taxes (Princeton University Press 2017).  The panel will discuss the book and take audience questions and respond to questions on Twitter at #Taxes or @BrookingsGov.

Conventional wisdom holds that Americans hate taxes. But the conventional wisdom is wrong. Bringing together national survey data with in-depth interviews, Read My Lips presents a surprising picture of tax attitudes in the United States. Vanessa Williamson demonstrates that Americans view taxpaying as a civic responsibility and a moral obligation. But they worry that others are shirking their duties, in part because the experience of taxpaying misleads Americans about who pays taxes and how much. Perceived "loopholes" convince many income tax filers that a flat tax might actually raise taxes on the rich, and the relative invisibility of the sales and payroll taxes encourages many to underestimate the sizable tax contributions made by poor and working people.

Shu-Yi Oei (Tulane; moving to Boston College), The Offshore Tax Enforcement Dragnet:

Taxpayers who hide assets abroad to evade taxes present a serious enforcement challenge for the United States. In response, the U.S. has developed a family of initiatives that punish and rehabilitate non-compliant taxpayers, raise revenues, and require widespread reporting of offshore financial information. Yet, while these initiatives help catch willful tax cheats, they have also adversely affected immigrants, Americans living abroad, and “accidental Americans.”

This Article critiques the United States’ offshore tax enforcement initiatives, arguing that the U.S. has prioritized two problematic policy commitments in designing enforcement at the expense of competing considerations: First, the U.S. has attempted to equalize enforcement against taxpayers with solely domestic holdings and those with harder-to-detect offshore holdings by imposing harsher reporting requirements and penalties on the latter. But in doing so, it has failed to appropriately distinguish among differently situated taxpayers with offshore holdings. Second, the U.S. has focused on revenue and enforcement, ignoring the significant compliance costs and social harms that its initiatives create.

Language Loves Legends About Itself

What happens if you start looking up the word ‘modegreen’? “The churning sea of language raises its watery head to look around and then dives back into itself, splashing out words like litotes, genericide, and yes, metaphor. I collect these terms like Easter eggs, thrilled to have names for the ways we outfit our messages with color, rhythm, and nuance.”
 The Millions 


TimingThe Timing of Lawmaking (Frank Fagan (EDHEC) & Saul Levmore (Chicago) eds. Edward Elgar 2017):
Legal reasoning, pronouncements of judgment, the design and implementation of statutes, and even constitution-making and discourse all depend on timing. This compelling study examines the diverse interactions between law and time, and provides important perspectives on how law's architecture can be understood through time. The book revisits older work on legal transitions and breaks new ground on timing rules, especially with respect to how judges, legislators and regulators use time as a tool when devising new rules. At its core, The Timing of Lawmaking goes directly to the heart of the most basic of legal debates: when should we respect the past, and when should we make a clean break for the future?

Wall Street Journal op-ed: A Corporate-Welfare Bonanza for Tax-Compliance Firms, by Nigel Green (Founder & CEO, deVere Group):

Recently I launched the Campaign to Repeal Fatca—the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act. The 2010 law, which purports to track down tax cheats hiding money abroad, forces foreign banks and other financial institutions to disclose Americans’ accounts to the Internal Revenue Service.

Threatened with U.S. sanctions if they don’t comply, banks around the world have rushed to submit to Fatca. Foreign governments have hastened to abrogate their domestic privacy laws. Fatca, it seems, has been a big success. But who really benefits?

Australia dodges international crackdown on trusts