Len Burman’s Brief for a Health Care VAT

In the cover essay in the current issue of The Milken Institute Review, Len Burman calls for a Value-Added Tax (VAT) to pay for government health care costs.

Len, the director of Tax Policy Center (and, thus, my boss), argues that a dedicated—and fully transparent–health care VAT would increase public support for efforts to slow the growth of medical costs. That’s because the VAT would rise, for all to see, with increases in government health spending. In effect, we’d be confronted with an explicit choice: Pay more tax or support steps to control health care cost growth.

Len’s argument is provocative, to say the least. And the article is accompanied by some art that is, umm, unusual. Thomas Piketty’s charts and graphs have nothing on this. (btw, Len had no role in creating the images).

Give Len’s essay a read, and let us know what you think.


Dave Camp’s Tax Reform Could Kill Community Foundations

House Ways and Means Committee Chair  Dave Camp deserves credit for proposing a tax reform that takes on many special interests,  something  too few other elected officials are willing to do. But one provision mistakenly threatens the survival of most community foundations without improving the tax system or strengthening the charitable community. The proposal would […]


Should Congress Curb Donor Advised Funds?

Buried deep in House Ways & Means Committee Chair Dave Camp’s tax reform plan is a proposal to require donor-advised funds to distribute contributions within five years. The proposal would be a major change for these charitable vehicles, where funds currently can sit indefinitely. Donor-advised funds (DAFs) are an easy, low-cost way for people (who […]


Sales Tax Revenues, State Economies, Lotteries and Fairness

Congress is in recess and returns next week. The Daily Deduction comes to you today, and will resume its regular schedule on Monday, April 28. A penny for your roads in the Show Me State. Missouri may increase its sales tax by one cent to fund transportation projects. A constitutional amendment passed the Missouri House […]


A Flash Tax for the Flash Boys

Michael Lewis spotlights high-frequency traders with his new book, Flash Boys.  These traders use high-speed computers and fast connections to outrace investors, and other traders, to the market.  They now account for more than half of all U.S. stock trades.  And the flash boys spend billions to save milliseconds (by, for example, laying expensive fiber-optic […]


If Congress Lets Firms Expense Investments, It Should Take Away Their Interest Deduction

Egged on by business lobbyists, congressional tax writers seem increasingly interested in allowing firms to rapidly write off the cost of their capital investments. Especially in the House, lawmakers would allow small businesses to expense the full cost of their investments in the year they are acquired, and let larger firms heavily front-load tax depreciation […]


Congress Fiddles While Bridges Crumble

It isn’t news that congressional Democrats and Republicans have agreed to spend the time between now and the November elections messaging, rather than legislating. When it comes to domestic policy it has only two real issues on its must-do list: Deciding the fate of 50+ tax breaks that expired last December and figuring out what […]


Taxes, Pensions and Public Schools: A Balancing Act

Congress is in recess and returns in two weeks. The Daily Deduction will be back next Monday and resume its regular schedule on Monday, April 28. Until then: Don’t miss tomorrow’s TPC event on inequality; outside the Beltway, states and cities’ pension and education funding problems persist. Tomorrow: TPC Tax Day conversation with Thomas Piketty […]


Taxing Weekend Ahead

“Simple” is in the eye of the beholder: Maybe “fairness” has universal appeal. A new poll shows most people think filing tax returns is “easy” and TPC’s Howard Gleckman wonders if anybody really cares about a simple revenue code in his latest post. Few of us file by hand anymore so doing taxes feels simple, […]


Does Anyone Care About a Simple Tax Code?

One of the biggest  selling points for tax reform is the claim that a new and improved revenue code would be easier for taxpayers to manage. Along with economic growth and fairness, simplicity has been a watchword for reform for decades. But a striking new survey by the Associated Press-GfK  has me wondering whether anybody cares. […]