Tax Expenditures and Tax Reform

Research Report

Tax Expenditures and Tax Reform

Issues and Analysis
October 20, 2006

Abstract

Tax reform proposals include both restructuring of the tax system (such as replacing the income tax with a consumption tax or reforming taxation of foreign-source income) and cuts in targeted tax benefits that substitute for spending (such as tax benefits for home mortgage interest and employer paid health insurance). Criteria for analyzing tax reform and expenditure reduction differ. Tax expenditure lists provide useful measures of the costs of "backdoor" spending and departures from an ideal tax base, but have not succeeded in facilitating better choices between using the tax system or direct outlays to promote social and economic policy goals.

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