Extending the Budget Enforcement Act: Revision of Paygo Rules Necessary for Better Tax Policy
22 Pages Posted: 13 Feb 2005
Date Written: May 2002
In the Federal budget process, the pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) principle as set forth in the Budget Enforcement Act (BEA) requires that all enacted direct spending and tax legislation for a fiscal year must be deficit-neutral in the aggregate. PAYGO rules have been generally praised by proponents for restraining new spending and for encouraging legislators to provide reasons for their budget decisions. Opponents have pointed to unconstrained federal spending, and frequent budget artifices as examples of the failure of PAYGO. In addition, the PAYGO rules raise excessive procedural hurdles for tax relief legislation. Numerous scholars and practitioners in the field have addressed the pros and cons of PAYGO, including the need for changing PAYGO rules or eliminating them altogether. The current PAYGO provisions are set to expire with the BEA after fiscal year 2002.
This paper concludes that if the PAYGO requirements as set forth in the Budget Enforcement Act are to be extended, then at a minimum a compromise approach be adopted to reform PAYGO: to permit dynamic revenue analysis of tax legislation, or at the very least allow legislation providing appropriate tax deferrals (such as contributions to IRAs) to be exempt from PAYGO requirements. This paper discusses budget enforcement and the PAYGO concept, then identifies the problems associated with PAYGO and how PAYGO often leads to counterproductive tax policy decisions. The paper also reviews the mixed success of PAYGO in controlling federal spending. The paper then demonstrates how a reform that would allow legislation providing appropriate tax deferral to be exempt from PAYGO rules would allow both fiscal responsibility and good tax policy by promoting incentives for taxpayers to save and invest, and potentially increasing revenue to the government.
Keywords: Budget, tax, budget policy, tax policy, PAYGO, budget enforcement act
JEL Classification: H10, H2, H61
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation