So Much for ‘Tax Reform’?

So Much for ‘Tax Reform’?


For years, economists and tax experts have found a broad consensus around the idea that the U.S. tax code needed to be cleaned up. Tax reform, in Washington parlance, generally meant an overall reduction in tax rates paired with the much more difficult task of “broadening the base” by eliminating deductions and closing loopholes.

But in a report (PDF) published Friday, the Joint Committee on Taxation found that the code actually contains more tax expenditures now than it did before Republicans passed their tax overhaul.

By Politico’s count, the JCT report includes 17 new tax breaks created by the Republican law, nine that were repealed by it and 55 that were altered. 

Scott Greenberg of the Tax Foundation points out that, in the wake of the GOP’s law, three of the biggest and most popular tax deductions are now expected to cost the federal government significantly less than they did in estimates produced before the tax law passed. But in total, the annual cost of all the tax breaks in the code decreased only slightly, from $1.6 trillion last year to $1.5 trillion this year, according to Marc Goldwein of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, though the year-over-year comparisons can get complicated (see this Twitter thread).