Stanford economists talk tax reform

With the fiscal cliff behind them, Stanford economists look at the prospects for tax reform this year and the challenges ahead.

Experts on the U.S. tax code from within the Stanford community will be among those attending an economic summit in March hosted by SIEPR.

It's that time of year again when the shades come up at the local H&R Block and it seems like TurboTax has bought ad space on every website.

But while many of us are most immediately concerned with April 15, and whether refunds are coming our way, this annual accounting of income earned, spent and stashed away leads some to discuss the tax code itself.

"You can't really think about taxes unless you think about the overall budgets, spending, the relationship of the federal, state and local governments, where those things are headed and things of that sort," said Michael Boskin, a Stanford professor of economics.

Boskin joined Stanford Professors John Shoven, Joseph Bankman and Lawrence Goulder and other top tax experts at a recent conference at the university on tax policy.

They discussed personal and corporate taxes as well as alternative taxes. Videos of their remarks are posted online.

The conference, co-hosted by the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research and the Tax Policy Center, a Washington, D.C.-based nonpartisan research center, highlighted research on the income gap, loopholes, international taxes, the federal deficit, entitlement programs and other issues.

Regarding projections of the growing debt and the political debates in Washington, Boskin, a senior fellow at SIEPR, said, "If something isn't done, we're heading into levels associated with, at best, stagnation and, at worst, financial chaos."

Goulder, an expert on environmental taxes and their effect on the economy, said the idea of a carbon tax to help repair the economy is gaining more traction among policymakers but "I think it's still a long shot."

"One of the things that got people's attention is that the carbon tax could be a way of helping finance tax reform and/or reduce the deficit," said Goulder, a senior SIEPR fellow.

SIEPR will be hosting a summit on the economy in March that will bring together leading experts in capital markets, the global economy, health care and tax reform.

Michelle Mosman, SIEPR: (650) 725-1872,

Brooke Donald, Stanford News Service: (650) 725-0224,