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Tax Week! – PolicySphere Morning Briefing – April 15, 2024

Happy Tax Week! Here’s your PolicySphere morning briefing! If you were forwarded this, here’s more about who we are and what we’re doing and, of course, don’t forget to sign up.

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This morning, people are talking about two things: Iran vs Israel, and Tax Week. Since PolicySphere doesn’t cover foreign policy, let’s talk about Tax Week!

But before that, we would be remiss not to mention the event that got all Wonk Twitter aflutter this weekend: UFC fighter Renato Moicano using his post-fight interview to encourage the world to read Ludwig von Mises:

Yes, this actually happened. God bless America.

Don’t worry, we won’t use this as a jumping-off point to discuss Mises or the Austrian School.

So, let’s talk about taxes. We will share here the most interesting links we have seen recently about taxes.

→ Here’s a piece from the Tax Foundation on the difficulty of filing taxes for independent contractors, which we can certainly relate to and we know many of our subscribers will.

→ This meme is legendary among policy wonks, because many of them have freelance income, and most of them love efficiency and dislike lobbying since the messy business of democracy prevents people like themselves from being philosopher kings: here’s an old article from Pro Publica about TurboTax’s lobbying to prevent Americans from filing their taxes easily. We’re sure that’s true, but it’s sort-of besides the point. In every advanced democracy filing taxes is a pain in the neck, and that’s because every advanced democracy has a complex tax code, and that’s because public choice theory dictates that in a demoracy special interest groups will get tax breaks, leading to screens with very long forms with lots of boxes and legalese. That is in the nature of the beast. Furthermore, many conservatives would argue that filing taxes should be a pain in the neck. Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Louis XIV’s legendary finance minister who gave his name to a theory of economic nationalism, once famously quipped that “Taxation is the art of plucking a chicken so as to extract the maximum amount of feathers for the minimum amount of noise.” Many small government conservatives would argue that filing taxes should be painful so as to remind taxpayers of the burden of government that, in a democratic republic, they are responsible for. This is why the US famously stands alone among advanced countries in lacking a VAT, the most efficient, painless, odorless, and colorless tax in existence. It is true that many conservatives do support a VAT, either to replace some existing taxes or all of them, as in the case of the (in)famous FairTax proposal. It’s an interesting debate! The point is that reality may be more complex than “Mean TurboTax lobbied the IRS to make tax filing difficult.”

→ That being said, tax filing does represent a substantial cost to the economy, and American Action Forum has a nice tool tracking that cost.

→ Important column from Abby McCloskey denouncing the US tax code’s marriage tax.

→ We have already linked to it last week, but as you weep over the size of your tax bill, you may perversely enjoy pouring salt over the wound by looking at Cato’s Spending Madness 2024 bracket of worst spends in the past year.

→ If you are particularly feeling the pain of taxes this year, you can at least take solace in the fact that, as a high-earning taxpayer, you are disproportionately contributing to the Federal budget, among other interesting factoids in this Tax Foundation analysis of the progressivity of the US tax structure.

→ The Bipartisan Policy Center, whose work we enjoy, has interesting tax content. Two of our favorites: their analysis of the child tax credit, and of tax policy in the context of national competitiveness strategy.

→ From Manhattan Institute’s Brian Riedl: why eliminating the Social Security tax cap is a bad fix for Social Security.

→ Finally, from the Tax Foundation: “This week, the world’s best golfers are descending on Augusta, Georgia for the 83rd edition of the Masters golf tournament. Augusta National Golf Club is famous for more than green jackets and pimento cheese sandwiches—legend has it that it’s the impetus for one of the tax code’s many exemptions.”

In other news…

#Immigration – CIS, for our money the best immigration think tank in the US, is going on a weeklong tour of the border. Whatever your views, it promises to be interesting. You should follow their content.

#Environment – US per capita CO2 emissions are now at 1913 levels. If we want to lower carbon emissions, the topic is China and India, not the US or Europe…

#Energy – R Street’s Josiah Neeley on Congress’s attempts to take over Texas’s electricity grid. (Did you know Texas has its own special electricity grid, and that it is all in-state so that, at least in theory, it isn’t affected by Federal regulation? We didn’t, until today.)

#Patents – R Street’s Steven Greenhut on a practice known as “evergreening,” which is “when patent holders file secondary patents that change tangential aspects of the product, such as packaging, dosing, or treatment methods, as a means mainly to extend the length of their monopoly protections.” More.

#Milestones – Last week-end, Clarence Thomas became the 10th-longest serving Justice in the history of the US Supreme Court. Well wishes on this historic occasion to a great American.

Chart of the Day

From American Action Forum:

Meme of the Day

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