My Beautiful Tax Reform

21 Pages Posted: 21 Mar 2006

See all articles by Joel B. Slemrod

Joel B. Slemrod

University of Michigan, Stephen M. Ross School of Business; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: March 2005


Many experts equate the best tax system with the simplest, and the best tax reform with the one that most simplifies the system. However, the simplest, most elegant policy need not be the best because tax policy involves a tradeoff among objectives, including equity and efficiency objectives, and often, achieving equity and efficiency requires some complexity. Because one's favored tax system depends both on economic assumptions and value judgments, which not everyone shares, this paper discusses both what tax system I favor and what has led me to my viewpoint, so the reader can get a sense of how his own economics or values would lead to a different policy prescription. Under my beautiful tax reform, most Americans would not have to file tax returns. The tax system would no longer be the primary source of goodies passed out by the government and a major determinant of how resources are allocated - what goodies and subsidies that remain would be consolidated. Progressivity would be retained with a system under which most, but not all, American taxpayers would be subject to a low, basic rate, the same rate at which all tax credits can be redeemed. Taxation of business income would be rationalized with the objective of taxing all business income at the appropriate tax rate of the income earner, sharply reducing tax sheltering, and making corporation tax payments more transparent.

Keywords: tax reform, tax policy, business taxes

JEL Classification: H20

Suggested Citation

Slemrod, Joel B., My Beautiful Tax Reform (March 2005). Ross School of Business Paper No. 1027. Available at SSRN: or

Joel B. Slemrod (Contact Author)

University of Michigan, Stephen M. Ross School of Business ( email )

701 Tappan Street
Room R5396
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1234
United States
734-936-3914 (Phone)
734-763-4032 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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