Hurricane Harvey hit Southeast Texas last month with tremendous winds and poured an overwhelming amount of rain over thousands of square miles of land. More than 185,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed in Texas, and property damage estimates start at $50 billion. More than 80 people lost their lives, and thousands of families will forever be affected by the storm’s devastation.
Last week, I had the privilege of being one of four witnesses invited to testify at the Senate Finance Committee’s wide-ranging hearing on reforms to the individual income tax. Sitting down the witness table from me was AEI visiting fellow Ramesh Ponnuru. Our testimonies approached tax reform from different vantage points. Ponnuru homed in on one tax policy — what he calls the “parent tax” — and made a clear case for the expansion of the child tax credit as a remedy. I gave a broader view of tax reform principles and the importance of broadening the tax base (that is, limiting deductions, exclusions, and credits).
In recent years, internet sales have grown by nearly 15 percent per year, compared to 4 percent per year for brick-and-mortar retail sales. Although e-commerce represents less than 9 percent of total retail sales, this shift in where we shop is eroding states’ sales tax base. Under the Supreme Court’s 1992 decision in Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, sellers without a physical presence in a state cannot be required to collect and remit that state’s sales tax. As a result, online sellers have an artificial competitive advantage over local brick-and-mortar sellers, who must collect sales tax from their customers. Congress needs to end this unfair tax advantage.
In a recent JAMA Pediatrics article on the correlation between e-cigarette use and subsequent cigarette smoking among adolescents and young adults, Dartmouth demographer Samir Soneji and his co-authors find that the probability of cigarette smoking at follow-up is significantly higher among all e-cigarette users than among individuals who never used a nicotine product. Based on this finding, they conclude that “strong e-cigarette regulation” by the federal, state, and local governments are needed to minimize the potential “future population-level burden of tobacco.” This conclusion is unwarranted based on the nature of their results.
Saturday marks the first birthday of the House GOP’s tax reform blueprint, “A Better Way: Our Vision for a Confident America.” Happy birthday, Tax Plan. To be honest, little man, when you were born you only got modest attention from those outside your immediate family. It was a busy time for the rest of us. We were watching Donald Trump clear the field of his fellow Republican candidates and were speculating about the likely fiscal agenda of Hillary Clinton.
Tax reform is hot this year, and rightly so. Mending an outdated tax system is an important political and policy objective. I am optimistic that Republican lawmakers will be successful, but no matter the scale or scope of this effort, it will not be the last big tax bill. Because tax reform is a perpetual effort, it is not too early to start considering post-tax-reform tax reform ideas.
As cigarette use decreases, it may be tempting to supplement declining tobacco tax revenues with a tax on e-cigarettes — a relatively new, less risky alternative to traditional cigarettes. Following actions by some European nations, the European Commission is now contemplating the proper tax treatment of e-cigarettes and has just finalised a public consultation on the topic. Taxing e-cigarettes would have a negative effect on nascent, but important, public health gains.
Talk last week about President Trump’s tax reform plan had two themes: The plan is too vague, and it is too costly. In other words, we don’t know what it is, but we know what it costs.
Despite Congress and President Trump needing to fill in many blanks, it is possible to analyze the economic effects of the elements that have been announced. And it is worthwhile to compare these effects to both current law and the more detailed House Republican tax plan.
The New York Times, Runner’s World, and a host of other media outlets recently hyped a new study published in Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases on the benefits of running. The study asserts that running, if performed regularly, leads to 3.2 additional years of life.
With tax reform hopefully next on the GOP’s agenda, it is important for lawmakers to think about its revenue effects in a sensible way: focus on the long-run budget impact, not the 10-year horizon embedded in congressional rules.