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Friday, July 15, 2011 by Pew Now Has Tax Expenditure Database

Yesterday (July 13, 2011), the Pew Charitable Trusts announced something new in its efforts to bring more attention to four types of subsidies issued by the government (that is, all of us!). The four categories:

  1. Grants
  2. Contracts
  3. Tax Subsidies
  4. Loan and Loan Guarantees

The Pew efforts began in 2008 with periodic reports on various subsidies, such as Amtrak.

The database launched this week allows people to look at the cost assigned to tax expenditures by the Joint Committee on Taxation and Treasury Department. Due to differing approaches to measuring the costs, the amounts are not the same, but each certainly shows the tremendous spending for these items such as housing.

For more on tax expenditures and what that means, why government agencies report different figures and some limitations on using tax expenditure reports, please see my recent article on Rethinking the Income Tax Calculation (2/10/11).

Also, for more on tax expenditures, don't miss the Center for American Progress Tax Expenditure of the Week program - here.

Why look at tax expenditures? A few of the reasons ...

  • They are a form of spending that is buried in the tax law. Any discussions about cutting spending that don't consider these is overlooking one of the largest spending parts of any federal or state budget. The federal spending in the tax law is about $1 trillion per year.
  • Many of these expenditures are inequitable (such as deductions that provide more benefit to higher income taxpayers than to lower income taxpayers).
  • They are special deductions, exclusions and credits that make the tax law complex.

I encourage you to try out the Pew tax expenditure database - use the box that says search. I typed in "elderly" and found a special deduction, credit and a few other items. Here is the link.

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