Tax is complicated, messy, and emotional. It is one of the most dividing issues worldwide and history concurs. Luckily, here in the U.S. we have a dedicated group of individuals wading through the sea of legislature and policy to show us what is historically best for our country and states.
In an interview with Jared Walczak, vice president of state projects for The Tax Foundation, Meredith Smith, the SALTovation show moderator, and TaxOps’ partner Judy Vorndran discuss the role of the Tax Foundation, a bipartisan think tank focused on researching and analyzing proposals and mandated provisions, tax policies and indexes.
The Tax Foundation is well-known for their weekly maps of state-by-state comparisons, which make complicated tax issues more digestible. Policy makers who use these maps also get a clear snapshot of what American tax policy looks like and a look into the economic, GDP, jobs and distributional impact of legislation. This analysis is extremely important because the majority of our elected officials are not accountants, and few are tax policy experts. Although legislators are making our laws, they often do not have full knowledge needed to make mindful legislation that serves constituents well.
Policy makers look to the Tax Foundation’s discussions and recommendations for greater insight into the facts and issues. According to Mr. Walczak, he and his team have found a way to combine research and outreach to successfully be dispassionate providers of information. Since the Foundation has no sides, Democrats and Republicans can confidently hash out legislative priorities backed by data and information, not emotion. Lawmakers can then evaluate what direction to go next.
An example of this co-operation can be seen in Missouri when the state was pushing for a gross receipts tax. Due to multiple studies, Mr. Walczak believed this legislature was headed toward a dead end. He and his team compiled the data and presented it to the policymakers. Instead of bulldozing ahead, lawmakers listened. Not only did the Tax Foundation point out the errors in this law, the Foundation also laid out the groundwork for a better system. Together, Missouri lawmakers have reformed current laws and rates to better reflect the current economy. The Tax Foundation helped halt bad legislation and its work made current models better.
The Tax Foundation’s 50-state comparison maps come out each Friday with a fresh take on current issues (go to taxfoundation.org to sign up for their newsletter). This concise bite of information keep decision-makers on their toes as they investigate the value of policy changes, business strategy, and the nature of U.S. taxes. The Foundation’s “Location Matters” reports break down overall taxes and incentives so decision-makers can be more confident about location decisions.
In a political world of chaos and circular arguments, it is nice to know lawmakers and decision-makers have such a grounded source of information for direction in the Tax Foundation. The past year has been turbulent for everyone and uncertainty can breed fear. Great strides in the right direction can happen when policy makers listen to sound advice.