Looking Back at Maurer’s SALT-Filled 2017 Tax Policy Colloquium

By: Leandra Lederman

With classes starting again, I have been planning for the new academic year, which also entails looking back at the 2016-2017 year. I’m teaching Introduction to Income Tax this Fall, and will be teaching Corporate Tax and Tax Policy Colloquium this Spring.

I am fortunate to run our Tax Policy Colloquium. I blogged on TaxProf Blog about launching the Colloquium and reflected back on it there after its first year. From my perspective, it has consistently been a terrific experience. Spring 2017 was special, though, because many of the paper topics seemed to connect, although that was largely unplanned. Here is the list of presenters we hosted, and their paper titles:

Daniel Hemel, University of Chicago Law SchoolFederalism as a Safeguard of Progressivity

Rebecca Kysar, Brooklyn Law School, Automatic Legislation

Les Book, Villanova University School of Law & David Walker, Intuit (via Skype), Thinking About Taxpayer Rights and Social Psychology to Improve Administration of the EITC

Allison Christians, McGill University Faculty of LawHuman Rights At the Borders of Tax Sovereignty

Mildred Robinson, University of Virginia School of Law, Irreconcilable Differences?: State Income Tax Law in the Shadow of the Internal Revenue Code

Jason Oh, UCLA School of LawAre Progressive Tax Rates Progressive Policy?

David Gamage, Indiana University Maurer School of LawTax Cannibalization and State Government Tax Incentive Programs

Justin Ross, Indiana University School of Public and Environmental AffairsThe Impact of State Taxes on Pass-Through Businesses: Evidence from the 2012 Kansas Income Tax Reform

These papers got us to think both about state tax systems and about how the U.S. federal and state tax systems interact or differ. One recurring theme was how regressive U.S. state tax systems generally are (aggregating all the taxes within a state). That discussion started with Daniel Hemel’s paper; he cited 2015 ITEP data that came up repeatedly throughout the course.

The ITEP site lists Washington, Florida, Texas, South Dakota, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Arizona, Kansas, and Indiana as the 10 states with the most regressive tax systems. I notice that several of those don’t have state income taxes. But many, including Indiana, do. As an example, here are the stats on Indiana’s tax system in 2015, coming in at 10th most regressive in the ITEP study.

In case you’re wondering, ITEP says that the 7 states with the least regressive tax systems in 2015 were (in alphabetical order) California, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Minnesota, Montana, Oregon, and Vermont. Least regressive doesn’t mean “progressive,” though: “In each of these states, at least some low- or middle-income groups pay more of their income in state and local taxes than wealthy families. In other words, every single state and local tax system is regressive and even these states that do better than others have much room for improvement.”

I’m now looking ahead to another terrific group of Colloquium speakers in Spring 2018. Paper topics are as yet undetermined, so I don’t know if themes will emerge, but I will plan to follow up with more on the Colloquium content in the future.