Why have Americans severely limited the estate and gift tax - ostensibly targeted at only the very wealthy - but greatly expanded the subsidies to low-wage workers through the Earned Income Tax Credit, now the single largest poverty program in the country? Why do people hate the property tax so much, yet seemingly revolt against it only during periods of economic change? Why are some groups of taxpayers more obedient to the tax authorities than others, even when they face the same enforcement regime? These puzzling questions all revolve around perceptions of tax fairness. Is the public simply inconsistent? A sympathetic and unified explanation for these attitudes is based on understanding the everyday psychology of fairness and how it comes to be applied in taxation. This book demonstrates how a serious consideration of 'folk justice' can deepen our understanding of how tax systems actually function and how they can perhaps be reformed.
Steven M. Sheffrin is a Professor of Economics and the Executive Director of the Murphy Institute at Tulane University. He is the author and co-author of several books, including Property Taxes and Tax Revolts (with Arthur O'Sullivan and Terri A. Sexton, Cambridge University Press, 2007) and Rational Expectations, 2nd edition (Cambridge University Press, 1996). His articles have appeared in numerous scholarly journals, including the American Economic Review, the Quarterly Journal of Economics, the Journal of Economic Perspectives, the Review of Economics and Statistics, the National Tax Journal, the Journal of International Economics, the Journal of Finance, the Journal of Monetary Economics, and the International Economic Review. He received his PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Preface; 1. Approaching tax fairness; 2. The foundations of folk justice; 3. Fairness and the property tax; 4. Should we redistribute income through taxation?; 5. Why do people pay taxes?; 6. Desert, equity theory, and taxation; 7. Concluding perspectives.