Edward Mccaffery


Robert C. Packard Trustee Chair in Law and Political Science, USC Gould School of Law, Los Angeles, USA

The Last Best Hope For Progressivity in Tax

Written by: Edward J. McCaffery and James R. Hines Jr.

1. Introduction

Pity President Obama. Pity tax. Pity the dreams of progressives everywhere.

Barack Obama’s presidential campaign gave believers in redistribution a brief shining moment of hope. Obama’s candidacy featured stirring calls for the richest Americans to give back and share more with ...

Is There a Gender Gap in Fiscal Political Preferences?

Written by: R. Michael Alvarez and Edward J. McCaffery


This paper examines the relationship between attitudes on potential uses of the budget surplus and gender. Survey results show relatively weak support overall for using a projected surplus to reduce taxes, with respondents much likelier to prefer increased social spending on education ...

Heuristics and Biases in Thinking About Tax

Written by: Edward J. McCaffery(#) and Jonathan Baron (t)


The principal findings of behavioral economics and cognitive psychology over the past several decades have been to show that human beings deviate from ideal precepts of rationality in many settings, showing inconsistent judgment in the face of framing and other formal manipulations ...

Good Hybrids/Bad Hybrids

In the second article I published as an academic, in 1992, “Tax Policy Under Hybrid Income – Consumption Tax,” I wrote that: the tax policy literature has spent decades, and by some measures centuries, discussing the relative merits of an income versus a consumption tax. It may be time to stop. ...

Behavioral Economics and Fundamental Tax Reform

I. Introduction

I come not to praise behavioral economics and its relation to fundamental tax reform, but to bury it. To be more precise, I mean to bury the most commonly and particularly suggested application of behavioral economics to fundamental tax reform: using the insights of behavioralism to support proposals to ...

The Humpty Dumpty Blues: Disaggregation Bias in the Evaluation of Tax Systems

Written by: Edward J. McCaffery and Jonathan Baron


Three experiments carried out on the World Wide Web assessed the consistency of attitudes toward various tax regimes that differed in their overall levels and degrees of tax rate graduation in the presence of framing manipulations. The regimes had two components: an income ...

The Missing Links in Tax Reform

A funny thing happened on the way to fundamental tax reform: Nothing. Just a few short years ago, it looked as if we might have another great American tax revolt, akin to the one that started this country over two hundred years ago. Ronald Reagan had gotten the modern bandwagon ...

A New Understanding of Tax

Written by: Edward J. McCaffery


A. Loomings

Perhaps we should blame it all on Mill. A great deal and possibly all of the mind-numbing complexity of America’s largest and least popular tax follows from the decision to have a progressive personal income tax[2] Proponents wanted an individual income tax notwithstanding — ...

Where’s the Sex in Fiscal Sociology? Taxation and Gender in Comparative Perspective

1. Introduction: Beyond War

Getting “sex” into the title of a chapter in book on a subject as daunting as “fiscal sociology” makes obvious marketing sense. Yet in fact something important is missing from the other chapters, each valuable and interesting in its own right.

The field of “fiscal sociology,” born in ...

The Uneasy Case for Capital Taxation


I write not to praise all tax-reductions but to bury one particular set of taxes.

Over a decade ago I began writing on the subject of comprehensive tax reform, in a piece titled The Uneasy Case for Wealth Transfer Taxes,[2] echoing the classic work ...

Three Views of Tax

Introduction: The Traditional View of Tax

Traditional tax policy for decades, if not centuries, has been locked in a seemingly all-or-nothing debate between two apparent extremes, income and consumption taxation.[2] In this ongoing war, income tax advocates have carried the banner for liberal egalitarian ...

Gender and Tax

(forthcoming in GENDER AND POLITICS, Jyl Josephson and Susan Tolleson-Rinehard, eds. (M.E. Sharpe))

R. Michael Alvarez* and Edward J. McCaffery**


Given the stakes involved, there has been surprisingly little empirical analysis of gender-based differences in attitudes towards specific aspects of taxation. Most of the literature on the so-called gender ...

Through the Looking Glass: The Politics of Estate Tax Reform

Here we go again. Trusts and estates practitioners sleep anxiously, uncertain of what Washington will do next to affect the centerpiece of their professional lives: the gift and estate tax. Repeal or repair? Stronger or weaker? Whither the law?

As we lose sleep over these questions and write or read ...

Ten Facts About Fundamental Tax Reform

The older I get, the less time I seem to have to read, or to pay attention to anything at great length. I presume, or hope, that this is because I am busy, not on account of any biological decline. In any event, I have learned since my first days ...

Behavioral Dimensions of Tax Reform


These are powerpoint slides from a presentation at a joint UCLA-Tax Policy Center Conference on Tax Policy in the Obama Era. The basic insight is that it will be difficult to raise significant revenue through the current tax system. Behavioral perspectives suggest that a series of small (or large) cuts, ...

A Voluntary Tax? Revisited


This Article explains, updates and generalizes Cooper (1979), which had labeled the estate tax a voluntary tax. The tax has remained voluntary in the sense of being easily avoidable, even by those engaging in activities within the tax’s ostensible normative target (i.e., significant intergenerational wealth transfers). Further, all taxes on ...

A Tale of Two Davids: Commentary on David Weisbach’s Implementing Income and Consumption Taxes: An Essay in Honor of David Bradford

David Weisbach has given us a work that would have made David Bradford proud. I can think of no higher compliment than that, and it is well warranted.

David Bradford devoted much of his considerable intellectual gifts to figuring out analytic equivalences among various, seemingly divergent, tax systems, and attempting to ...

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