By Stanley S. Surrey
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Additional resources for Pathways to Tax Reform: The Concept of Tax Expenditures
Rather, his discussion first premises a model different from that traditionally used by the economists in structuring an income tax, and then sees where those two expenditures, as well as other personal deductions, fit in relation to his own model. Thus, while he starts by discussing an "ideal income tax," the "ideal tax" soon becomes an "ideal personal tax" rather than an ideal income tax, and this ideal personal tax then turns into a tax primarily focused on consumption. Indeed, the ultimate thrust of his approach, as his discussion indicates, favors a personal tax based only on consumption and disregarding saving or accumulation.
While it may be useful for other purposes to recognize that the customary real property tax is unneutral in taxing only real property, it is not helpful for our purposes. Similarly, it is not helpful here to consider that a real property tax places a heavier burden on businesses with relatively large amounts of real property, even though the economic and other implications of that unneutrality are important — for example, in the heavier taxation, under that tax, of railroad transportation as against motor transportation.
Consider, for example, the tax expenditure program for housing represented by the deductibility of mortgage interest and property taxes paid on owneroccupied homes, listed as an item under Housing and Community Development. 7 billion (calendar 1972). The translation of the tax language in which the program is framed and the assistance provided — a deduction in computing taxable income — tells us first that the wealthier the individual the greater is his assistance under the program. This is because the higher the individual's income and thus the higher the individual's income tax rate, the larger is the tax benefit — the tax reduction — brought about by the deduction.
Pathways to Tax Reform: The Concept of Tax Expenditures by Stanley S. Surrey