Fair and Equitable Tax Policy

Jason Furman
Jason Furman Aetna Professor of the Practice of Economic Policy - Harvard University, Nonresident Senior Fellow - Peterson Institute for International Economics, Former Brookings Expert

September 6, 2007

Mr. Chairman and other members of the Committee, thank you for the invitation to testify today at this hearing on fair and equitable tax policy for America’s working families.

I would like to start with a confession: as an economist I have no special expertise in fairness or equity. The members of this committee were elected, in part, to make critical value judgments about these fundamental questions. But in order to make these value judgments you need the understand who is impacted by the tax changes and how they are impacted. And economists do have a special expertise that can help further this understanding and thus inform the debate on the bigger issues.

Evaluating a tax change requires understanding the impact it has on households through three different channels: (1) the direct impact of the tax changes on take-home pay; (2) the economic effects of the tax change on before-tax incomes; and (3) the impact that the associated budgetary changes have on future taxes or government spending on households. All three channels can be usefully summarized in a single variable: the change in the after-tax incomes of households.