The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Sunday, January 16, 2005

Why do tax laws have sunset clauses?

I'm reminded by a piece in the NYT Magazine today by Nick Confessore on the upcoming exercise in tax 'reform' to make a note of the answers to the question posed. Which go something like this:

The novice replies: As a control mechanism of prudent fiscal discipline, intended to avoids a tax cut becoming a permanent drain on resources, promoting regular review of all options (there's probably an analogy to zero base budgeting in there somewhere, too).

The pass student, having noted the novice reply as the sort of bollocks to be expected from a USG spokesman, replies: In order to manipulate the budget numbers, to reduce the ostensible cost of a tax cut, in the almost certain knowledge that the sunset would somehow be got round by the ingenuity and verve of the nation's legislators.

The honours student, endorsing his lesser brother's analysis as good as far as it goes, replies: If a tax break were permanent, those who benefit would only have to pay K Street and the pols once in order to get it passed; whereas, with the sunset in place, they have to come back again and again, chequebook at the ready.

I fully credit that - continuing the analogy - the graduate student, Ph D and all points academically north have further sophistication to add to this little dialogue - alas, I cannot yet pretend to speak for them!


Roger Lowenstein has the cover story in the Magazine today on the 'crisis' in Social Security that Bush is touting as a pretext for his privatisation plans.

It looks like good stuff - historical perspective, expert evidence, what the guys at CJR Daily call reportorial authority - but an almost total lack of knowledge on the subject forstalls comment.

Worth mentioning that the Social Security Administration site has an excellent historical section, with the Congressional Record coverage of the 1935 debates and much else besides.

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