Robert McIntyre

Robert S. McIntyre is director of Citizens for Tax Justice and a contributing editor for The American Prospect.

Recent Articles

The Taxonomist:

People often talk about how the federal income tax should not push people deeper into poverty. One way to measure how well the system performs in this regard is to look at how much a person or family can earn before income taxes kick in. Current law's combination of standard deductions, personal exemptions, and credits yields some fairly odd results. This year, for a single person without children, the income tax threshold is $8,275; in other words, a person in this category will not pay income tax on the first $8,275 of wage earnings. For married people without children, the threshold is $12,950, or $6,475 per person--a marriage penalty. When children enter the picture, things get even stranger. If a single person has a child, the tax threshold jumps by about $13,300. If a couple has a child, the threshold rises by only $10,400. (For additional children, the changes in the tax threshold are more similar among couples and single parents, about $5,400 for a second child and about $2,...

The Taxonomist

Just before George W. Bush's inauguration, the Clinton administration put out its final projections of budget surpluses over the next decade. According to a news story in The Washington Post , the analysis predicts about $1.6 trillion in surpluses, assuming that Social Security and Medicare surpluses are off limits and that a collection of tax breaks and programs technically due to expire are extended as they have been in the past. The Post warned, "That would not leave enough to cover Bush's tax cut, which with interest costs could drain revenue by more than $1.9 trillion, let alone his other spending plans." Actually, the latest budget news is even worse for Bush than the Post reported. If discretionary spending keeps up with population growth, says the Clinton analysis, projected surpluses drop to $1.2 trillion. Alternatively, if appropriations keep up with the economy, then the surpluses over the next 10 years fall to less than $0.5 trillion. Add in some of the new...

The Taxonomist

For corporate America, tax sheltering is all the rage these days. Big accounting firms like PricewaterhouseCoopers, investment banks like Merrill Lynch, and a legion of unscrupulous tax advisers are aggressively marketing their services to otherwise "respectable" companies by promising to help them abuse the tax laws with little chance of detection by the IRS. In 1998 PricewaterhouseCoopers bragged to Forbes magazine that it was promoting some 30 "mass-market" corporate tax shelters, plus specialty items for big firms willing to pay extra. It said that it had hired 40 salespeople to push its corporate shelters. We know a little about how some of these shelter deals purport to work because a few of the tax abusers, such as UPS, Colgate-Palmolive, Compaq, and AlliedSignal, have actually been caught. The courts threw out their tax shelters as "sham" transactions, entered into for no purpose other than to escape taxes. But these cases, although very recently decided, all date back to...

The Taxonomist

Federal personal-income-tax revenues jumped by 11 percent in fiscal 2000, adjusted for inflation. That capped the strongest five-year real growth in personal income taxes that the United States has experienced since the 1960s. In fact, at 10 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP), personal-income-tax receipts are now at their highest level in American history. Though other federal revenue sources (except real estate taxes) have grown at only average rates, personal income taxes are such a large portion of federal revenues that the inflation-adjusted increase in total federal receipts over the past five years also reflects the highest five-year growth rate since the 1960s. Not surprisingly, many Republican lawmakers see this data and respond that the country needs a big cut in income taxes. Then again, they say that in response to just about everything. But with income taxes at an all time high, isn't the case for reducing them stronger than usual...

The Taxonomist

Bush's Prescriptions During the 2000 presidential campaign, George W. Bush tried very hard to persuade the public that he, like Al Gore, wanted to give senior citizens some real help in paying for the escalating cost of prescription drugs. But the sad truth is that Bush has little interest in a solution to this pressing problem. How else to explain his insistence on spending every penny of what it would take to provide a solid prescription drug plan for seniors--every penny!--on tax cuts for the best-off 1 percent of Americans? Here's the arithmetic: Paying for 80 percent of the cost of seniors' prescription drugs, with a $4,000 outof-pocket cap and a $23 monthly premium, would cost an average of about $2,000 a year per senior citizen--a total of $885 billion over the next 10 years. But Bush has offered only a paltry $48 billion for prescription drug coverage over four years. Extrapolating that over a decade, Bush's drug plan amounts to about $150 billion--$735 billion short of what...

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