Journal of Economic Perspectives: Vol. 6 No. 1 (Winter 1992)
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The Structure of the Tax System versus the Level of Taxation: An Evaluation of the 1986 Act
Ballentine, J Gregory. 1992. "The Structure of the Tax System versus the Level of Taxation: An Evaluation of the 1986 Act." Journal of Economic Perspectives, 6(1): 59-68.
In this paper, I assess the 1986 Tax Reform Act relative to the tax system that might have evolved over the several years following 1986 had that particular tax reform not been enacted. Had tax reform not been enacted, I believe that the pattern of steady tax increases, particularly corporate tax increases and tax increases on high-income individuals such as occurred in the 1982 and 1984 tax acts would have continued. I also believe that the 1986 Tax Reform Act introduced an income tax system that will be quite stable; broad changes, in particular changes that raise a large amount of income tax revenues, are unlikely for many years. So I am comparing the tax structure of the 1986 Tax Reform Act to a system that, in part, has an inferior structure, but that provides more revenues. Since I believe that the most important tax policy goal in 1986 and later should have been to raise revenues, not to revise the structure of the tax system, I believe that the 1986 Tax Reform Act was harmful. Tax reform not only did not raise revenues, it has made it more difficult to raise revenues in the future, without providing significant offsetting benefits.
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Ballentine, J. Gregory (KPMG Peat Marwick)
H20: Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue: General
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