In my last TaxBytes column, I laid out the strange economics of so-called “tax expenditures.” I gave as an example the tax deduction for mortgage interest. That provision leads some people to own rather than rent and others to buy a more expensive house than they would have. Those are bad effects. But, I noted, it would be more straightforward for economists and politicians to say that those provisions have bad effects rather than using the convoluted language of tax expenditures.
It gets worse. Sometimes economists and politicians use the term tax expenditures to refer to tax provisions that have good effects on economic growth. They do that because they are stuck in the Haig-Simons view of income. According to this view, named after early 20th century tax scholars Robert M. Haig and Henry C. Simons, it doesn’t matter whether income comes from working or from interest and capital gains—all should be taxed equally. This view has sometimes been summarized as “A buck is a buck.”
This is from David R. Henderson, “Reducing ‘Tax Expenditures’ Can Hurt Economic Growth,” TaxBytes, Institute for Policy Innovation, September 13, 2023.
Read the whole thing.