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Economy and Taxes

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Clear nonpartisan analysis of fiscal and tax policy enables policymakers and the public to weigh competing theories on how to end the country’s economic crisis. Urban Institute researchers evaluated key components of the stimulus package and analyzed the tax proposals in the president’s budget. Warning decisionmakers about the unsustainable fiscal course ahead, our experts propose ways to control deficits and reform the entitlement programs that drive up spending. Read more.

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Wealth in America: Policies to Support Mobility (Research Brief)
Signe-Mary McKernan, Caleb Quakenbush, Caroline Ratcliffe, C. Eugene Steuerle

What role can policymakers play in helping families rebuild their balance sheets after the Great Recession and in helping young families, families of color, and those with less education who were falling behind even prior to it? This brief, based on a convening of nearly 25 national wealth-building experts, presents the facts and identifies four promising policy reforms: (1) providing universal children’s savings accounts; (2) reforming the mortgage interest deduction to better target incentives; (3) expanding access to retirement accounts and automatic enrollment; and (4) promoting emergency savings while addressing barriers such as asset tests in safety net programs.

Posted to Web: July 22, 2014Publication Date: July 22, 2014

When Budgeting Was Easier: Eisenhower and the 1960 Budget (Occasional Paper)
Rudolph G. Penner

The paper looks back to time when budgeting was easier and budget outcomes were superior. Although it is impossible to replicate the past exactly, there are characteristics of past budgets that might be emulated. The focus is on Eisenhower's battles to balance the 1960 budget. At the time, almost all spending was controlled by annual appropriations, and popular, rapidly growing entitlements for old people were very much less important. The president's budget was much more influential. Approaches to gaining more control over entitlements are explored as is the more difficult task of restoring the influence of the president's budget.

Posted to Web: July 11, 2014Publication Date: July 11, 2014

State Economic Monitor: July 2014 (Newsletter)
Norton Francis, Kim Rueben, Richard C. Auxier

The latest edition of the Tax Policy Center's State and Local Finance Initiative's State Economic Monitor reports that states are still struggling to emerge from the lingering recession. The good news is that nearly all states experienced economic growth in 2013, and only one state has an unemployment rate above 8 percent. But few states have fully recovered from the 2007 downturn, and new problems are arising. State tax revenues were down in the first quarter, driven by a significant decline in income tax revenue, and a non-government forecast estimates that the revenue drop may become even more severe. The Monitor also reviews the health of other aspects of state economies such as total employment, real earnings, and housing. This edition’s special supplement highlights a new Urban Institute report on public pension plans.

Posted to Web: July 09, 2014Publication Date: July 09, 2014

Description and Analysis of the Camp Tax Reform Plan (Research Report)
Jim Nunns, Amanda Eng, Lydia Austin

This paper describes the major provisions in the “Tax Reform Act of 2014,” the comprehensive tax reform plan released on February 26, 2014, by Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI). It also presents the Tax Policy Center’s analysis of the plan’s revenue impact beyond the 10-year budget period, distribution of the tax burden, economic incentives, and compliance costs.

Posted to Web: July 08, 2014Publication Date: July 08, 2014

Costly Error in Payroll Tax Computation for the Self-Employed (Article)
Jim Nunns

Errors in the formulas for computing payroll tax for the self-employed result in their paying less payroll taxes than workers with the same earnings. All self-employed workers benefit from these errors, but those with high earnings benefit disproportionately. A provision in Ways and Means Committee chair Dave Camp’s tax reform proposal would correct the formulas. The $5 billion revenue gain over ten years from enacting this provision could help pay for extending expiring tax provisions or for better targeted tax cuts. And it would eliminate a glaring inequity. This article explains the correct formulas and the effects of applying them.

Posted to Web: July 01, 2014Publication Date: July 01, 2014

Analysis of Specific Tax Provisions in President Obama's FY2015 Budget (Article)
Elaine Maag, Jim Nunns, Eric Toder, Roberton Williams

This document reviews several notable tax proposals in President Obama’s fiscal year 2015 Budget. These include expanding the earned income tax credit (EITC) for workers without qualifying children, expanding the child and dependent care tax credit for families with young children, conforming rules for self-employment contributions act (SECA) taxes for professional service businesses, and changing business taxes to create a reserve to fund long-run revenue-neutral business tax reform.

Posted to Web: June 30, 2014Publication Date: June 30, 2014

Flattening Tax Incentives for Retirement Saving (Research Report)
Barbara Butrica, Benjamin H. Harris, Pamela Perun, C. Eugene Steuerle

Under current law, a large share of tax benefits for retirement saving accrues to high-income employees. We simulate the short- and long-term effect of three policy options for flattening tax incentives and increasing retirement savings for low- and middle-income workers. Our results show that reducing 401(k) contribution limits increases taxes for high-income taxpayers; expanding the saver's credit raises saving incentives and lower taxes for low- and middle-income taxpayers; and replacing the exclusion for retirement saving contributions with a 25 percent refundable credit benefits primarily low- and middle-income taxpayers, and raises taxes and reduces retirement assets for high-income taxpayers.

Posted to Web: June 30, 2014Publication Date: June 30, 2014

Randomized Controlled Trials and Financial Capability: Why, When, and How (Research Brief)
Brett Theodos, Margaret Simms, Rachel Brash, Claudia Ayanna Sharygin, Dina Emam

Financial capability programs have proliferated in recent years, but rigorous research into which programs and methods are effective has not kept pace. Practitioners, policymakers, and funders are increasingly calling for rigorous financial capability research, including randomized controlled trial studies (RCTs), which can produce the highest standard of evidence. In April 2013, the Urban Institute and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau hosted a roundtable on the benefits and challenges of financial capability RCTs. The group agreed that RCTs are most suitable for well-established and scalable programs. Frontline staff should be fully invested in the study and involved in designing implementation and data-collection strategies.

Posted to Web: June 30, 2014Publication Date: June 30, 2014

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