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Is This Tax Reform, or Just Confusion?


  • Joel Slemrod


Based on the experience of recent decades, the United States apparently musters the political will to change its tax system comprehensively about every 30 years, so it seems especially important to get it right when the chance arises. Based on the strong public statements of economists opposing and supporting the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, a causal observer might wonder whether this law was tax reform or mere confusion. In this paper, I address that question and, more importantly, offer an assessment of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The law is clearly not "tax reform" as economists usually use that term: that is, it does not seek to broaden the tax base and reduce marginal rates in a roughly revenue-neutral manner. However, the law is not just a muddle. It seeks to address some widely acknowledged issues with corporate taxation, and takes some steps toward broadening the tax base, in part by reducing the incentive to itemize deductions.

Suggested Citation

  • Joel Slemrod, 2018. "Is This Tax Reform, or Just Confusion?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 32(4), pages 73-96, Fall.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:32:y:2018:i:4:p:73-96
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.32.4.73

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    Cited by:

    1. Max Gillman, 2020. "Income Tax Evasion: Tax Elasticity, Welfare, and Revenue," CERGE-EI Working Papers wp675, The Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education - Economics Institute, Prague.
    2. Scheuer, Florian & Slemrod, Joel, 2020. "Taxing Our Wealth," CEPR Discussion Papers 15481, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    3. Kalcheva, Ivalina & Pleńćnik, James M. & Tran, Hai & Turkiela, Jason, 2020. "(Un)intended consequences? The impact of the 2017 tax cuts and jobs act on shareholder wealth," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 118(C).
    4. Lieberknecht, Philipp & Wieland, Volker, 2019. "On the Macroeconomic and Fiscal Effects of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act," CEPR Discussion Papers 13629, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    5. Dorine Boumans & Clemens Fuest & Carla Krolage & Klaus Wohlrabe, 2020. "Expected effects of the US tax reform on other countries: global and local survey evidence," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 27(6), pages 1608-1630, December.
    6. Florian Scheuer & Joel Slemrod, 2021. "Taxing Our Wealth," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 35(1), pages 207-230, Winter.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • H20 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - General
    • K34 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - Tax Law


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