Manoj Viswanathan: Retheorizing Progressive Taxation, NYU Tax Policy Colloquium Series (2021)

Manoj Viswanathan presented “Retheorizing Progressive Taxation” at NYU last week as part of its Tax Policy Colloquium Series. The Abstract for this presentation is as follows:

Tax progressivity is undeniably central to both the detailed analytics
of tax policy and the rhetorical arguments commonly used in public
discourse. Yet there are surprisingly inconsistent and inaccurate uses of this
seemingly objective term. By theorizing progressivity’s constitutive elements
and identifying its shortcomings, this Article offers a novel taxonomy of how
progressivity is assessed and why contradictory assessments are common.


This Article argues that, as a theoretical matter, accurately
characterizing tax provisions as progressive (or regressive) requires assessing
their burdens beyond simply the tax payments remitted. By failing to account
for effects such as economic incidence and inefficiency costs, traditional
progressivity analyses are incomplete. Relatedly, since the spending side of
the budget process is functionally indistinguishable from taxation, accurate
progressivity analyses must also consider where tax revenues are spent. This
Article suggests that earmarked tax assessments—taxes allocated to specific
purposes—could overcome some of these challenges.

To see full presentation paper, click Manoj Viswanathan: Retheorizing Progressive Taxation, NYU Tax Policy Colloquium Series (2021).

Posted by Bennett Mansour, Associate Editor, Wealth Strategies Journal

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