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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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Assessing Pension Benefits Paid under Pennsylvania's State Employees' Retirement System (Research Report)
Richard W. Johnson, Barbara Butrica, Owen Haaga, Benjamin G. Southgate

Pennsylvania’s pension plan for state employees receives a failing grade in the Urban Institute’s state and local pension plan report card, and ranks as the third-worst plan in the nation covering newly hired general state employees. The plan scores poorly because it is inadequately funded, it penalizes work at older ages by reducing lifetime benefits for older employees, and it provides few retirement benefits to short-term employees. Age-25 hires must work 32 years before they accumulate rights to future pension benefits worth more than their required plan contributions. Various pension reforms could distribute benefits more equitably across the workforce.

Posted to Web: September 04, 2014Publication Date: September 04, 2014

Political Activity Limits and Tax Exemption: A Gordian's Knot (Research Report)
Roger Colinvaux

The article considers the correct tax treatment of political activity, examines administrative and legislative options to problems raised, and concludes that after the Citizens United decision, definitional political activity limits on noncharitable exempts should be eliminated, but only if the 527(f) tax on investment income remains vital and there are uniform donor disclosure rules. In addition, Congress should: extend the income tax to transfers of appreciated property to noncharitable exempts, take steps to prevent the laundering of independent expenditures through the charitable form, and develop a new tax baseline for political activity conducted "for profit" or outside of section 527.

Posted to Web: August 25, 2014Publication Date: August 05, 2014

Tax Expenditures for Asset Building in 2014 (Article/Tax Facts)
C. Eugene Steuerle, Caleb Quakenbush

Government directs a large amount of resources toward helping families build assets in the form of home equity, retirement savings, human capital, and business ownership. This Tax Fact summarizes the cost of different asset-building tax subsidies. These tax expenditures total to more than $370 billion in 2014 and are projected to grow to more than $500 billion over the next 5 years. Deductions and exclusions for homeownership and retirement savings form the majority of subsidies, with education coming in a distant third. Smaller subsidies for small business and other personal savings round out the total.

Posted to Web: August 20, 2014Publication Date: August 20, 2014

Corporate Inversions (Article)
Kimberly A. Clausing

Recently, there has been a spate of corporate inversions, where U.S. multinational corporations have combined with foreign companies, arranging their corporate structure to locate the residence of the resulting corporation in a foreign country with an attractive corporate tax climate. This paper will discuss both the longstanding features of the U.S. tax system that provide incentives for corporate inversions and the reasons for the present surge in inversions. If unfettered, corporate inversions are likely to undermine the U.S. tax base, so swift policy action is likely warranted. Inversions can be effectively addressed in a targeted fashion.

Posted to Web: August 20, 2014Publication Date: August 20, 2014

Evaluating Retirement Income Security for Illinois Public School Teachers (Research Report)
Richard W. Johnson, Benjamin G. Southgate

The financial problems afflicting Illinois’s teacher pension plan have grabbed headlines. An equally important problem, though underappreciated, is that relatively few teachers benefit much from the plan. Long-serving teachers receive generous pensions, but only 18 percent of teachers remain employed for at least 25 years. Only 24 percent of those who complete at least five years of service receive pensions worth more than the value of their required plan contributions. Alternative plan designs, such as cash balance plans, could distribute benefits more equitably and put more teachers on a path to a financially secure retirement.

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

Transforming Performance Measurement for the 21st Century (Research Report)
Harry P. Hatry

While substantial progress has been made in spreading performance measurement across the country and world, much of the information from performance measurement systems has been shallow. Modern technology and the considerable demand for information on progress in achieving the outcomes of public programs and policies are creating major opportunities for considerably improving the usefulness of performance information. This report provides a number of recommendations to help public and private service organizations take advantage of these opportunities, particularly for:(a) selecting appropriate performance indicators and data collection procedures; (b) analyzing and reporting the information; and (c) using the information to improve services.

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

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