The Role of Economics in Tax Scholarship
Chapter in BEYOND ECONOMIC EFFICIENCY, David A. Brennen, Karen B. Brown, and Darryl Jones (eds.) (2013) (Forthcoming)
21 Pages Posted: 8 Jul 2012 Last revised: 21 Feb 2013
Date Written: 2012
One of the fundamental tenets of modern tax policy analysis is that we should be concerned with so-called economic efficiency. Along with equity and administrability, efficiency is widely held to be a desirable and important goal. Indeed, to some analysts, efficiency is the most important of those goals, and perhaps the only appropriate goal of tax policy. Even for those who still take seriously non-efficiency concerns, however, efficiency is at least a central element of tax policy analysis, to be weighed against the other two goals (and, perhaps, some others). All tax policy proposals are thus scrutinized to determine whether they enhance or reduce the economy’s efficiency.
If economic efficiency were a coherent concept, it would indeed be extremely useful in the analysis of tax policy, as well as in many other areas of the law. Unfortunately, there is no substance underneath the often-impressive superstructure of efficiency analysis. This makes it not just unwise, but affirmatively misleading, to base academic analysis of taxation – in whole or in part – on attempts to measure and maximize efficiency.
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