Challenge of Individual Income Tax Reform: An Economic Analysis of Tax Base Broadening [March 22, 2012]   [open pdf - 465KB]

"Congressional interest in a major reform of the individual income tax that would broaden the base and use the additional tax revenues to lower rates and/or reduce the deficit has increased. The President's Fiscal Commission, for example, proposed an individual income tax reform with three objectives: to broaden the base and lower the tax rate, to contribute to deficit reduction, and to maintain or increase the progressivity of the tax system. The Fiscal Commission proposed to broaden the tax base by eliminating or modifying most tax expenditures. One legislative proposal, S. 727, introduced by Senators Wyden, Begich, and Coats, would broaden the tax base by eliminating many tax expenditures and reduce tax rates. [...] The analysis in this report suggests there are impediments to base broadening by eliminating or reducing tax expenditures, because they are viewed as serving an important purpose, are important for distributional reasons, are technically difficult to change, or are broadly used by the public and quite popular. Given the barriers to eliminating or reducing most tax expenditures, it may prove difficult to gain more than $100 billion to $150 billion in additional tax revenues through base broadening. This amount could have a significant effect on reducing the FY2014 budget deficit--reducing the projected $345 billion deficit by 30% to 43%. This additional tax revenue, however, is equivalent to about 6% to 9% of projected FY2014 individual income tax revenue, and, consequently, would not allow for significant reductions in tax rates (about a one or two percentage point reduction for each bracket)."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, R42435
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