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Joel Slemrod

Joel Slemrod is Paul W. McCracken Collegiate Professor of Business Economics and Public Policy and Director of the Office of Tax Policy Research at the University of Michigan.

Titles by This Author

Despite its theoretical elegance, the standard optimal tax model has significant limitations. In this book, Joel Slemrod and Christian Gillitzer argue that tax analysis must move beyond the emphasis on optimal tax rates and bases to consider such aspects of taxation as administration, compliance, and remittance.

Slemrod and Gillitzer explore what they term a tax-systems approach, which takes tax evasion seriously; revisits the issue of remittance, or who writes the check to cover tax liability (employer or employee, retailer or consumer); incorporates administrative and compliance costs; recognizes a range of behavioral responses to tax rates; considers nonstandard instruments, including tax base breadth and enforcement effort; and acknowledges that tighter enforcement is sometimes a more socially desirable way to raise revenue than an increase in statutory tax rates. Policy makers, Slemrod and Gillitzer argue, would be well advised to recognize the interrelationship of tax rates, bases, enforcement, and administration, and acknowledge that tax policy is really tax-systems policy.

A Citizen's Guide to the Debate over Taxes

As Albert Einstein may or may not have said, "The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax." Indeed, to follow the debate over tax reform, the interested citizen is forced to choose between misleading sound bites and academic treatises. Taxing Ourselves bridges the gap between the two by discussing the key issues clearly and without a political agenda: Should the federal income tax be replaced with a flat tax or sales tax? Should it be left in place and reformed? Can tax cuts stimulate the economy, or will higher deficits undermine any economic benefit? Tax policy experts Joel Slemrod and Jon Bakija lay out in accessible language what is known and not known about how taxes affect the economy, offer guidelines for evaluating tax systems, and provide enough information to assess both the current income tax system and the leading proposals to reform or replace it (including the flat tax and the consumption tax).

The fourth edition of this popular guide has been extensively revised to incorporate the latest information, covering such recent developments as the Bush administration's tax cuts (which expire in 2011) and the alternatives proposed by the President's Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform. Slemrod and Bakija provide us with the knowledge and the tools—including an invaluable voter's guide to the tax policy debate—to make our own informed choices about how we should tax ourselves.

Titles by This Editor

Problems and Prospects

Colombia, once a model of fiscal discipline for other Latin American nations, has seen its fiscal situation deteriorate since the early 1990s. Higher government spending, taxes that did not keep pace with expenditures, and severe recession led to an unsustainable debt-to-GDP ratio of 52 percent in 2002. Short-term tax increases, even coupled with spending reforms, have not restored Colombia to fiscal balance. A Colombian government commission charged with researching more long-term tax and fiscal reforms gave rise to the selected essays included in this book, each coauthored by Colombian and North American public finance experts. The analyses and recommendations have particular policy relevance for developing economies in general.

The studies include both broad discussions of Colombian fiscal and tax systems and detailed analyses of such specific tax instruments as the payroll tax, value-added tax, and the bank debit tax. The focus is on three key concerns: the sustainability of Colombia's fiscal situation, possible reforms to the national tax system, and the fiscal relationship between the national and subnational governments. The theme that emerges from these studies—the importance of moving toward a more efficient and equitable tax system while also raising revenue—suggests the limitations of stopgap measures and the real need for long-term fiscal reform.