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Next Month’s Symposium Highlighting Relationship Between Tax and Race

Posted on Jan. 30, 2023

I am writing to share information about an upcoming Symposium to be held on February 24, 2023 in Washington, D.C. on “The Federal Income Tax: Racially Blind But Not Racially Neutral.” The symposium is free and open to the public.

There are in-person and Zoom attendance options, with pre-registration here and a flyer with more information here. The program is sponsored by the American Tax Policy Institute and co-sponsored by the American College of Tax Counsel, the ABA Tax Section, Skadden Arps Meagher & Flom LLP, the Center for Tax Law and Public Policy at Temple University Beasley School of Law, the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University, and the Pittsburgh Tax Review. The symposium comes at a time of increased attention concerning the relationship between tax law and racial justice. Professor Dorothy Brown’s book, The Whiteness of Wealth, has justifiably received wide recognition for shining a bright light on how the tax system disproportionately favors White Americans, reinforcing our country’s racial wealth gap.

On his first day in office, President Biden signed Executive Order 13985, Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government. And this past week, Treasury has released a working paper estimating the distribution of certain tax breaks by race and ethnicity. There is a Treasury blog post highlighting the main take aways from this important paper.

As the Treasury blog post notes,

The IRS does not collect information on race and ethnicity on tax returns, so to facilitate analysis of disparities in tax policy, the Treasury Department has developed an approach to impute race and ethnicity in tax data, which it will continue to refine. Using this approach, the Department has conducted a first-of-its-kind analysis of the impact of tax expenditures on racial and ethnic disparities, which will increase transparency and improve our understanding of how existing tax policies work.

In the study, Treasury found that preferential rates for capital gains and dividends, deduction for pass-through income, charitable deduction, home mortgage interest deduction, and deduction for employer-provided health insurance disproportionately benefit White families.

In contrast, Treasury notes that “Black and Hispanic families, who make up a disproportionate share of low-wage workers, disproportionately benefit from the Earned Income Tax Credit” And “Hispanic families, who have comparatively low rates of employer-sponsored health insurance, also disproportionately benefit from the Premium Tax Credit, which provides assistance for the purchase of health insurance through the Marketplaces. Finally, Hispanic families disproportionately benefit from the Child Tax Credit.”

The Feb 24th Symposium thus comes at an important inflection point for scholars and others interested in how the tax system relates to issues of racial justice, and includes panels on the following:

• Race, History, and Taxation

• Tax Systems and Privileged Choices

• Systemic Inequalities Undergirding Facially Neutral Tax Laws

• Discrimination through Non-Discrimination

I am thrilled to participate, as I will discuss the relationship between tax administration and racial justice, an especially important topic given how, for better or for worse, Congress increasingly tasks the IRS to play a main role in distributing benefits relating to poverty relief, creating work incentives, and subsidizing health care, housing, and energy efficient consumption. The Center For Taxpayer Rights will explore these themes further in the fall of 2023 as part of its successful Reimagining Tax Administration series. The Center’s first Reimagining Tax Administration series in 2021 addressed running social programs through the Internal Revenue Code, and the 2022 series explored taxpayer rights at the state level. With its upcoming series Racial Impact of Tax Administration, the Center will follow up on many of the themes likely to be explored in the February 24th Symposium.

While virtual and in person attendance for the February 24th Symposium is free, there are limited spaces, so I encourage those of you interested to register asap.

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