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The 8 Best Tax Preparation Books
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Tax time can be, well, taxing. Not only is there a lot of paperwork to sort through, but not understanding how to work the system (or messing up your return) can cost you. And with all the changes and updates to the tax code every year, it’s important to school yourself on tax-related topics to ensure that you’re prepared this tax season.
From single filers and heads of households to business owners and self-employed people, tax preparation books can help every tax filer maximize their return. These books will help you take advantage of tax credits , list the various deductions you may qualify for, teach you how to survive an audit, and break down other rules. Here are the best tax preparation books.
Best Overall: How to Pay Zero Taxes
"How to Pay Zero Taxes" promises a lot but the premise is simple: Armed with the right information, tax time can be less of a hassle, and you can save money like never before. Tax expert Jeff Schnepper’s captivating guide will lead you gently through complex information without feeling mentally or financially taxed. And you'll find salient advice on everything from calculating child and elder care costs, how to maximize your business deductions and how to survive an audit if you’re one of the unlucky few the IRS chooses to inspect carefully.
Although he’s been writing this series for over 30 years, the updated edition of Schnepper’s book covers all of the latest additions to the tax code and includes hundreds of easy tips to save you money. This critical volume has a lot to offer professionals and personal filers alike.
Related: The Best Accounting Books
Best for Basics: J.K. Lasser's 1001 Deductions and Tax Breaks
This book is an excellent place to start if you don’t know the first thing about taxes. This isn't a mere laundry list of what you are eligible to deduct—it also teaches you how the law has recently evolved, which types of income are never taxed, how to claim things correctly, and how to read your financial records as a seasoned accountant would.
Arm yourself with your W-2 filings and any other sources of income before you crack open this book then start saving money at the turn of each page. Newly updated to cover recent changes to the tax law, "1001 Deductions" also features an online supplement that provides up to date information on the newest legal developments in the tax code, covering every possible situation.
Best Short Read: Taxes Made Simple
This one's for you if you know a little bit more than absolutely nothing about taxes but not much more. You'll learn all of the things you should have picked up in personal finance class had you been paying attention from the difference between basic essential terms to how to make sure you qualify for the deductions and credits that will save you in the long run.
You'll also gain a better understanding of which tax forms you're required to fill out based on your occupation and personal details, as well as laws specific to your state. You'll be prepared for doing your simple taxes—or for interviewing a potential accountant to make sure you're getting what you’re paying for.
Best for Retirees: Get What's Yours
If you or a loved one are nearing retirement age, you're going to want to get your hands on this book. The U.S. Social Security system is incredibly complicated and has nearly 3,000 rules governing who's eligible for what and when.
Wrong decisions about what to apply for and when you apply could end up costing you tens of thousands of dollars...every year. Using these stories of those people and lessons gleaned from decades of financial planning will help you navigate the complexities and help you get the highest possible payout. You'll learn strategies and tips from the pros, written in a style that even those whose minds aren’t as sharp anymore will be able to understand.
Related: The Best Investing Books
Best for Vacation Home Owners: Saving the Family Cottage
A family vacation home can be a taxation nightmare. Things can get very complicated very quickly when you inherit a property in which multiple parties have a stake even if everyone gets along just fine.
You can avoid future squabbles between your children or other inheritors with a little proper planning. "Saving the Family Cottage" will teach real estate owners how to create a proper legal mechanism to protect family property for every generation to come while staving off countless headaches to boot. You'll find information on how to keep possession of your home if creditors or greedy relatives you haven't heard from in years suddenly think they're owed a cut. How to transition from one generation’s ownership to another, how to keep one party from selling the home unilaterally and, most importantly, how to maintain calm in the family are all covered.
This book also includes helpful information for those who are—or would like to be—renting out their property full or part time.
Best for Self-Employed People: 475 Tax Deductions for Businesses and Self-Employed Individuals
You might be paying more in taxes than you need to if you work for yourself. You're essentially leaving money on the table if you don’t properly understand the deductions you’re entitled to. Written by a pro with over 30 years of experience, this book is an essential tool that people who work for themselves will want to put to good use.
"475 Tax Deductions for Businesses" doesn’t just tell you the deductions you should be taking such as for your website and any lost revenue. It also shows you exactly where to put the information when it’s time to file. There’s also a special section on how to deduct costs associated with working from home.
Best End of Life Planning: 8 Ways to Avoid Probate
If you're nearing the end of your life, facing a health scare, or building a family, you might be more worried about living life to the fullest than concerned with what will happen to your money after you pass from this world. Unfortunately, failing to plan for your death could have a severe financial impact on your family and even land them in probate court where they could sink thousands of dollars into unnecessary legal proceedings.
"8 Ways to Avoid Probate" can save you and your family all that hassle by providing useful and easy strategies like naming your payable-on-death beneficiaries for your retirement and savings plans and using a living trust. This edition offers a complete overview of federal and state law no matter where you or your family reside.
Related: The Best Personal Finance Books
Best for Experts: U.S. Master Tax Guide
You can skip this recommendation if you're a home filer unless you’re looking for a good bedtime story. Tax pros, on the other hand, will find this book an invaluable resource.
It’s meticulously researched and provides the most up-to-date and legally sound insider explanation of the U.S. tax code. You’ll find yourself consulting this reference again and again if you’re preparing a complicated filing. Even if you’re a CPA, you’ll be hard-pressed to come up with a question that this book doesn’t answer.
This book provides straightforward albeit detailed answers. It's one you must buy if you want to know the tax code forward and backward.
The latest edition of Jeff Schnepper’s “How to Pay Zero Taxes” ( view on Amazon ) is a must-read for anyone hoping to crack the tax code. With tons of money-saving tips and easy-to-digest language on complex topics, even the most knowledgeable tax pros are bound to learn a few new tricks. And since so many people today are gig economy workers or freelancers, the "475 Tax Deductions for Businesses and Self-Employed Individuals” ( view on Amazon ) is another one to add to your reading list if applicable.
The best books on taxes and taxation, recommended by joel slemrod & michael keen.
Rebellion, Rascals, and Revenue: Tax Follies and Wisdom through the Ages by Joel Slemrod & Michael Keen
Many of us try to avoid thinking about taxes unless we have to, but the truth is taxation has had a profound effect on the course of history and will play a key in the future society we create, too. Here, Michael Keen and Joel Slemrod, both public finance economists and authors of Rebellion, Rascals, and Revenue: Tax Follies and Wisdom Through the Ages, recommend books about taxes that are not only informative but also good reads.
Interview by Sophie Roell , Editor
Showdown at Gucci Gulch: Lawmakers, Lobbyists, and the Unlikely Triumph of Tax Reform by Alan Murray & Jeffrey Birnbaum
The Sinews of Power: War, Money and the English State, 1688–1783 by John Brewer
Taxing the Rich: A History of Fiscal Fairness in the United States and Europe by David Stasavage & Kenneth Scheve
The Income Tax: A Study of the History, Theory, and Practice of Income Taxation at Home and Abroad by Edwin Seligman
Dimensions of Tax Design: The Mirrlees Review by Institute for Fiscal Studies
1 Showdown at Gucci Gulch: Lawmakers, Lobbyists, and the Unlikely Triumph of Tax Reform by Alan Murray & Jeffrey Birnbaum
2 the sinews of power: war, money and the english state, 1688–1783 by john brewer, 3 taxing the rich: a history of fiscal fairness in the united states and europe by david stasavage & kenneth scheve, 4 the income tax: a study of the history, theory, and practice of income taxation at home and abroad by edwin seligman, 5 dimensions of tax design: the mirrlees review by institute for fiscal studies.
Before we get to the books, are we on the cusp of a sea change in our global tax system?
Joel Slemrod: We might be. The US is talking about putting its corporate tax back up a little bit. The UK is talking about it too. We have in place some cross-country agreements to help countries track down the foreign accounts of their residents who might be evading tax, and we may soon have agreement on a global minimum rate of corporate taxation. A lot of countries are talking about taxes centered on high income people. Because of the pandemic, countries need to raise a lot of revenue, if not now, soon. Mick and I are not great prognosticators, but we might be at some sort of a cusp.
Michael Keen: On the one hand, there’s a lot being proposed, particularly in the international corporate tax area, that is very different from what we’ve had for the last 100 years, and that gets a lot of attention. For example, this idea that we’ll have a global minimum corporate tax rate is unparalleled. There are also various technical changes going on to how we tax multinationals that really are a break from norms we’ve had for the past century.
On the other hand, international corporate tax is just one part of a much wider tax system. Joel is right that governments are going to need more revenue. Whether that will mean a ‘new world’ of taxation may depend on whether they’re going to start using new tax instruments to raise those revenues. If there were a general increase in rates of VAT, would that count as a new world in terms of taxation?
A more profound structural change would be heavier use of carbon taxation, which is something that most economists have been pressing for, for ages. But I think the jury is very much still out on whether countries are really going to bite the bullet and go for ambitious carbon pricing of some sort. There’s a lot of rhetoric about the pandemic and increased inequality and so on but, at the end of the day, is any really substantial change in tax structures going to happen? This relates to one of our books, which is about taxing the rich. Will we see real changes in social attitudes and expectations of the tax system that will drive fundamental change? We don’t yet know.
At an individual level, if I want to avoid taxes, in most cases, I can just go and live somewhere else. Or if I’m a corporation, I can just funnel my taxes through places like the Netherlands. Isn’t the real challenge getting countries to work together to narrow these gaps? And my impression is countries are now getting together a bit more, maybe?
Mick: Again, for businesses it depends on what happens this summer. But yes, the things people are talking about now, like giving taxing rights to the countries where companies do business even if they have no physical presence there—which is not something we do now—are fundamentally different. We’re waiting to see whether we end up with an agreement. We’ll have to see how the politics plays out.
The alternative picture of the future is one in which the whole system of international business taxation fragments, everything becomes even more complicated, and countries become more aggressive against one another.
Joel: For individuals, changing where you live will likely continue to offer potential tax benefits—though less so for US citizens like me: the US is unusual in taxing its citizens wherever they live.
I kept laughing as I read your book , which I thought was an incredible achievement for a book about the history of taxation. It’s fascinating what a critical role tax plays in so many major historical events, like the French Revolution , isn’t it?
Mick: Yes. It’s quite hard to find major historical events that didn’t have some kind of tax element to them. Joel and I have been thinking about this over the years, and in everything we read we look for the word “tax” in the index. And what is surprising is how many books don’t include it, given the evident importance of tax in social movements. Even today, as we speak, there’s news of fatalities in tax-related disturbances in Colombia.
Joel: Yes, there’s a long article in the New York Times about riots there triggered by tax, although only one sentence about what was actually in the tax bill. Usually, we find there’s something else beyond tax that triggers riot and revolt—some basic unfairness that comes from a wider source, that taxation somehow crystallizes.
As a citizen, I do think it’s important to be aware of tax and taxation, and your book is really useful for that, as are some of the books you’re recommending. What do you think is the biggest lesson from history for the present?
Joel: One of the big lessons is that when you’re contemplating new taxes, or big increases in taxes, it really behooves a government to think beforehand about how that’s going to be enforced. There are always going to be people looking to avoid, looking to evade, and you want to get the enforcement regime that’s appropriate in place beforehand. One reason that matters now is because the US has been contemplating very large increases in taxation of wealthy people. During the presidential campaign, there was talk of a wealth tax, though it looks like we’re not going to have that in the near future. But, to the credit of the people who proposed it, in their proposals they paid a lot of attention to what would be needed to enforce such a tax.
Mick: A theme of our book is that what governments are trying to do when they tax has not fundamentally changed over the millennia. They want to raise revenue in a way that doesn’t destroy the economic activity that generates it, and in a way that is at least fair enough for them to survive, politically and maybe even literally. The technology available for doing all this changes massively, but the objectives don’t.
One of the things your book explains is there are things straightforwardly called taxes, but there are also a lot of non-tax taxes as well. A lottery is one example. Is that one of the few taxes that people enjoy paying, or are there others as well?
Joel: I don’t think it’s that people enjoy paying money to the government through lotteries, it’s just that they enjoy the gamble. Governments can tap into that, and the profits they then make look much like a tax. But I think people are just as happy to play lotteries when the government isn’t involved—maybe even more so.
Mick: There are arguments about whether it was Voltaire or someone else who came up with the description of public lotteries as a tax on the stupid, but it does seem that people just enjoy the possibility of their life being transformed by winning. So lotteries can be seen as either exploiting the foolish or adding harmless pleasure to taxpaying. Reflecting this, when we look in the book at what people have said about taxes in utopias and in dystopias , it turns out that both often have revenue-raising through lotteries.
In terms of examples of taxes that people actually enjoyed paying, there were taxes on social class that people presumably didn’t actually like paying but that played on and fed their pride. Under these taxes, which go back to Henry VIII and even before in England, you paid some fixed amount if you were a duke and some lesser amount if you were an earl, all the way down through every rung in the social ladder. Enforcing this largely relied not only on the fact that being a duke is something pretty easy to observe, but also on the likelihood that no self-respecting duke would pretend to be a mere earl in order to reduce their tax liability.
“It’s quite hard to find major historical events that didn’t have some kind of tax element to them”
Joel: There is a related story about the Queen Emma Bridge in Curaçao, which was a footbridge put up in 1888, by the US ambassador. To finance it, he had a toll on crossing the bridge, but he wanted it to be progressive, so it was only charged to people rich enough to have shoes. Crossing was free for people who went across barefoot. This sounds clever, except that a lot of poor people, for reasons of pride, borrowed shoes to cross the bridge and paid the toll. And a lot of rich people were not so proud and would take their shoes off before they crossed the bridge, to avoid the toll. Some people were happy to pay to signal that they weren’t poor.
Mick: People do occasionally make gifts to government. That’s often been the case in wartime. Typically, it’s done with enthusiasm to begin with, and then with less enthusiasm as the war drags on. In the US you can also make a voluntary gift can’t you, Joel?
Joel: Yes, if you carefully read the instruction booklet for the 1040—the basic income tax form here—there is a paragraph where you are invited to make your check a little bit bigger, to help pay down the US national debt. The government actually publishes, monthly, how much they get. It’s a pretty small fraction of what they get from real taxes.
Mick: And there are all these millionaires and billionaires who say they want to pay more tax. Joel and I have different views about how much we should be impressed by those public statements .
Doesn’t the history suggest that for a tax to be successful people do have to buy into it? Even if they’re not happy about paying it or a bit unwilling, they have to be broadly accepting of the principle—otherwise it’s going to go nowhere.
Mick: Right, and the classic example is still Margaret Thatcher’s poll tax in the UK—a poll tax being one that is a fixed amount independent of income or any other indicator of economic well-being. The British are pretty law-abiding when it comes to tax but this one dissolved into disaster. The experience shows how potentially vulnerable respect for that tax system can be, and how a badly conceived tax—again, taken in a wider social context—can lead pretty quickly to real problems with compliance. The evidence suggests it also takes some time to recover from that. Once you undermine trust in the tax system, it’s not something you necessarily get back very quickly.
Let’s go through the books about taxes you’ve recommended. The first one is Showdown at Gucci Gulch , which sounds like an entertaining book written by a couple of reporters, Alan Murray and Jeffrey Birnbaum. Can you say a bit about the incident it’s covering and why it’s important in the history of US taxation?
Joel: Gucci Gulch is the nickname for the hall in the US Congress outside where the tax committees meet and where all the fancy lobbyists with their Gucci loafers line up. Not all of them could get into the committee room, so they’d line up outside and wait for news about what was going on. The book does sort of read like a thriller. Probably the only tax thriller there is.
It’s about the months leading up to the next-to-last big income tax reform we had here in the US, which became the Tax Reform Act of 1986. It’s an interesting story about how the politics of taxation work, because a couple of years before it passed, very few people would have thought anything like it could happen. For political reasons, President Reagan commissioned the Treasury to put out a study of tax reform. They took it very seriously and came out with a three-volume study. Then it went over to Congress where, again, it just didn’t seem likely that it could pass.
What it did, basically, was lower tax rates but broaden the tax base. And I would say most academics would have voted for it if it was an up or down vote. There were moments when it looked dead. And then particular characters in this drama stepped forward, and it happened.
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So that’s the background. It was the last big tax reform in the US before one in 2017. That one sharply cut revenues. The current Biden administration tax proposal would effect tax reform of a very different kind than either 1986 or 2017, as it aims to raise substantially more revenue, from corporations and rich individuals.
Mick: For non-American readers Gucci Gulch is a great read, partly because of the many larger than life characters involved, from Ronald Reagan down, and partly because you learn how the sometimes puzzling US process works. And there are a ton of good stories along the way that also point to some general lessons. For example, these days it is common to present transparency as crucial in setting about tax reform. Well, some of the 1986 hearings were with TV cameras and some weren’t. And one of the main players in the reform explains how important the closed sessions were, because then the politicians could really cut the deals. They could come out and say to their lobbyists, ‘I really fought for you in there, but, gee, it just didn’t work’. So we get an inside look at the nitty gritty of how the tax deals were done. It makes you understand and think a little bit more deeply about how the process works, or can work.
If it was under Reagan, wasn’t it about cutting taxes on the rich?
Joel: It was not that at all. Reagan said he wanted to lower tax rates, so that was an important part of what was eventually passed. But to pass, reform had to be pretty much a bipartisan effort. Tax rate cuts were accompanied by expansions of the tax base, with the reform as a whole supposed to be both revenue neutral and distributionally neutral, meaning it was explicitly not supposed to shift the tax burden away from the rich or toward the rich, anything like that. As I mentioned earlier, that’s very different from what we’re talking about this year in the US.
Is it a useful indication of how to get things done in Congress?
Joel: It’s an amazing indication of what happened in 1986. There’s just no way to envision that kind of consensus about tax changes today. It’s just not conceivable.
Let’s talk about the next of the books that you’re recommending, which really shows the importance of tax and taxation to the course of history. This is John Brewer’s The Sinews of Power , about 18th century England. Tell me about this book.
Mick: This one is about the development of the revenue-raising capacity of the British government that underpinned Britain’s rise to global dominance in the 18th century. It’s a very all-encompassing account, covering the growth of parliamentary sovereignty following the Glorious Revolution and the Civil War before that, the emergence of a professional civil service, even the role of interest groups and lobbyists. It provides a compelling and gripping explanation of how Britain went from being a second-rate (if that) power to being able to finance a global military presence—on both sea and land, for the latter largely by hiring foreign troops. By the end of the 18th century, although it was the French that had a revolution, the British were raising three or four times as much per capita. But they were doing it in ways that were broadly seen as acceptable.
Sinews is also just very engagingly written, bringing out the personal side of revenue-raising, the people involved, from the ones we’ve all heard of to modest clerks and excise officers. There are many telling stories. Brewer talks, for instance, about the rise of professional excise collectors, and describes how one of them who had crossed something out in his ledger book became terrified that he was going to get into trouble, because playing around with your tax collection book looked so suspicious—a memorable way of explaining how high professional standards were becoming. The book comes down to that very human level, while at the same time conveying powerful and important insights. That made it one of the first books onto our list.
How fascinating, that Britain can tax at three or four times the rate of France and it’s the French king who ends up on the guillotine.
Mick: That’s right. I think there’s a question about how far you go back to explain the difference between Britain and France. Brewer starts with the Glorious Revolution. Some people would go back further, perhaps to the Civil War as embedding parliamentary supremacy even more fundamentally. And even before that, Britain wasn’t fragmented in the same way France was. The French tax system was made incredibly complicated by internal frontiers and different regional rules and practices.
Joel: One of the themes in Brewer is picked up in the Scheve and Stasavage book. Brewer talks about how the ability of the British to tax allowed them to shoulder the burden of military commitments. The first word of the subtitle is war: Brewer talks about the creation of a fiscal military state. One of the biggest themes in Scheve and Stasavage is the relationship between war and the ability of countries to tax.
Let’s talk about that book next. It’s called Taxing the Rich: A History of Fiscal Fairness in the United States and Europe.
Mick: This is the one that’s most related to current concerns. It tries to explain episodes in which the rich have been taxed at very high rates. There are all kinds of theories you might put forward about that. Was it, for instance, to do with the widening of the suffrage and the rise of democracy, the idea being that a majority of non-rich voters will vote to tax the rich to extract money for themselves? Or was it because of some social consensus that such taxes were needed to address unacceptably high inequality?
Scheve and Stasavage have a quite different explanation. They argue that the episodes in which we’ve taxed the rich particularly heavily have had a compensatory element and occur particularly during and after big wars, where there’s been mass conscription. The idea is that when the poorer bear some massive burden in pursuit of some collective goal, the rich have, in effect, been pressured or even felt it right to make a commensurately large financial commitment. This force is most evidently at work in mass wars: the conscription of wealth is called for to match the conscription of labor. This relates to Joel’s point about the importance of war in understanding the development of tax systems. Major wars have led to very heavy taxes on the rich, not only or even mainly in order to raise a lot of money, but because the poor are seen as having a massively harder time during war.
“Because of the pandemic, countries need to raise a lot of revenue”
The book is relevant to today and some of the things we’ve been talking about, partly because it argues, for example, that it’s not simply concerns with inequality—which we hear much of these days—that have given rise to heavy taxes on the rich. Episodes of heavy taxes on the rich may have more to do with this idea of compensating the poor for some spectacularly disproportionate suffering.
Some people have tried to draw parallels with the current pandemic, given that the poor, and the most vulnerable, have borne a disproportionate share of the burden. The better off, and many of the middle class, haven’t had such a bad time. One issue—going back to what you asked at the outset, whether we’re at a cusp—is whether the pandemic has set up the compensatory context in which we might see these pressures for the rich to pay substantially more tax to meet what are in many countries going to be heightened revenue needs.
Joel: What their message has to say about today is fascinating. The book was written before COVID. It ends by saying, ‘Well, it doesn’t look likely that we’re going to be able to have more taxes on the rich, because the nature of war has changed.’ Scheve and Stasavage talk about how today we don’t need mass armies anymore. Without that, the burdens of wars won’t be so heavily borne by low-income folks. So this compensatory argument doesn’t apply.
So, just like Mick, I have been wondering ‘Does COVID have that same element of a mass war?’ Maybe this compensatory argument applies to the post-pandemic era. If you read the last page in the book, it is not optimistic that increased taxation for the rich can fly—but maybe it can.
Mick: Yes and, in fact, we may see it already a bit. People are starting to talk about ‘excess profit taxes,’ which the UK, US and many others had in both world wars. These are one form of solidarity tax that countries have sometimes adopted to deal with emergencies, even short of war—in response to national disasters, for instance.
This sense of crisis, that something has to be done, galvanizes everybody. But then I guess the sense of crisis often passes quite quickly…
Mick: Right! Our sense is that the pandemic-related moment for this may have passed, at least in advanced countries. It might have had better prospects six months ago.
Okay, let’s go on to the next of the taxation books you’ve chosen which is about 100 years old, I believe. It’s called The Income Tax: A Study of the History, Theory and Practice of Income Taxation at Home and Abroad . Tell me about it.
Joel: This book is by one of our heroes, Edwin Seligman, who was a professor at Columbia University at the turn of the 20th century. He began this book in 1894. In that year, the US passed an income tax and he was thinking, during the initial debate, ‘I’m going to put together what’s known about income tax.’ It had been levied in many countries before that. Then, in 1895, the Supreme Court said, ‘One problem: an income tax is unconstitutional.’ Seligman then stewed about it. The first edition of this book is 1911, 17 years after he started. This is when the US was seriously thinking about an income tax again. It was understood that we needed a constitutional amendment and the 16th amendment passed in 1913. In that year, the US passed an income tax, the Revenue Act of 1913.
I find the origin of the book and the fact that he’s writing it in parallel with the US introducing an income tax to be fascinating. Seligman was a supporter of the income tax and, in the second edition, published in 1914, he adds a little chapter at the end with his evaluation of the US income tax that was passed. He’s an academic, so of course he’s got a couple of things he would have done differently, but he’s mostly supportive.
Mick: The thing that really stands out for me about this book is that Seligman was such an incredible scholar. He read the most obscure tracts in their original German and French. In erudition, he’s the Edward Gibbon of taxation. You wonder how on earth he wrote this book without Google. Scholarship isn’t as universal amongst academics as often thought, but he is a shining example.
In terms of the general story, income tax is a recent phenomenon. It’s not that in the past people were taxed less, it’s just that different methods were used to extract money from them. The income tax itself is a 20th century phenomenon and still the best thing we have, is that right?
Joel: For the British, who introduced it in 1799, the income tax is actually a 19th century phenomenon. But yes, for the US and others it came to maturity in the last century.
In the US, the income tax was meant to replace excise taxes and tariffs, which were perceived as putting the burden too heavily on low-income people. That’s what propelled the income tax in the US. At first, it didn’t mean a big increase in total revenues. It did prove to be successful, though, so whether the presence of an income tax leads to higher revenues later, that’s a tough one to figure out, but it certainly could be so. In any case, the income tax is still the principal policy tool for achieving tax progressivity, although the idea of adding a highly progressive annual wealth tax has recently been mooted.
“Under the century-old norms, if a company is not actually physically present in your country…they are not required to pay corporate tax there”
Mick: You’re right, Sophie, that looking over the millennia of history, rulers and governments and princes and kings have always looked for some kind of indicator, some proxy, for how well off people are, on which to then base tax liability. And that proxy has changed over time. To begin with it was the land you had, then it was how many fireplaces you had, or what your social class was, or how many windows there were in your house. The income tax, in a way, is just using today’s best feasible proxy. There’s a nice quote from Seligman that we include in the book, making clear that the income tax is not perfect but is the best we’ve got for now.
We’re still figuring out what might come next, whether it’s something Joel has written about, looking at taxes based on your genes, or something else. There are all kinds of things we might end up looking at.
One thing I wanted to ask you about is the Laffer curve, because that’s always very popular on the right, this idea that you can lower taxes but still get an uplift in revenue. Donald Trump even awarded Arthur Laffer a Presidential Medal of Freedom for his services to economics. In your book , you point out that the data say it’s untrue. There’s never been a circumstance where lowering taxes heightens a government’s revenue, is that the consensus?
Joel: I would say that except for the world ‘never’, that’s right. There are isolated incidents, with particular circumstances, where it looks like there might have been a Laffer curve phenomenon. A cut in the tax on tea in eighteenth century Britain may be one such case. But as a general proposition about lowering income tax rates in the UK, the US, or other advanced economies, the evidence is clear that it just doesn’t happen.
Let’s go to the last of your books on taxation, which is Dimensions of Tax Design . It’s a set of papers for the Mirrlees review . Is this specifically about the UK?
Mick: This book is a series of background papers for a report that was prepared by the Institute for Fiscal Studies in the UK in 2011. There’s certainly a UK focus, but we picked this book because, although it’s a little out of date, it gives a great sense of where our discipline is. It brings together the theoretical apparatus that was developed over the last forty years or so with empirical techniques that have improved by leaps and bounds in this century. The various chapters are still the go-to places for a lot of the topics that arise not just in the UK, but in other countries too.
And are we pretty good at taxing these days? Have the techniques of economists made it a pretty efficient process by now?
Joel: One of the interesting aspects of this book is that for most—maybe even all—of the chapters, academic economists were paired with people from outside academia with a real interest in actual policy. It’s that aspect that comes to mind when you ask how good we are at taxing, because tax shouldn’t be left just to economists. In fact, there’s a quote in the final Mirrlees report to the effect that ‘economists cannot claim to have all the answers to good tax design.’ I think that’s true, not only about the practical aspects of administration and enforcement, but also about the ethical aspects. Mick and I, and others, will glibly use the word ‘fair’ and talk about ‘fairness in tax’ but deciding what’s fair is not an economics question. We have to look to the political system, or even to philosophers, for answers to that.
But if you want to see where the state of the art is, even though it’s now 10 years old, these are some of the best economists in the world writing on 13 key topics. It is 1347 pages, so you do need to take a gulp before you recommend it to your readers.
Mick: I confess that I realized after we picked it that each of us actually co-authored one of the chapters, but that’s amongst many authors. I hope we are still allowed to pick it?
That’s fine. Also, I did insist you include a geeky book rather than just great reads.
Mick: Picking up on Joel’s point about many of the authors not being academic economists, it occurs to me how many of the books we have chosen aren’t by economists. The author of The Sinews of Power is a historian. Taxing the Rich is by political scientists. Showdown at Gucci Gulch is by journalists. The prominence of non-economists in or choices is not just because economists don’t often write that well and we wanted books that people might enjoy reading. It’s also because economists have often not wanted to focus on, or felt comfortable with, taking a wider perspective on taxation.
Which reminds me you also wanted to include a book called The Rise and Fall of the House of Vestey by Phillip Knightley, who was also a journalist. The Vestey family come up in your book.
Joel: The Vestey family story is nice because it illustrates all the tricks that people still get up to on international taxation, but a century earlier. They ran a big multinational company and were very creative at playing all the tax avoidance games that multinationals and the rich still play today. It’s a lively story, with characters whose lives were, for better or worse, remarkable. So the Vesteys provide a way of telling the story of international taxation—even getting a little bit technical—and the tricks that taxpayers use, and how governments seek to counter them.
Yes, I found it interesting because the average person in the street, we all think Amazon should be paying more taxes. But what that actually means, I have no idea.
Mick: That goes back to what we were talking about before. People have these ideas because they deal daily with these big-name companies and think, ‘They really ought to be paying tax to my government.’ But under the century-old norms, if a company is not actually physically present in your country, that’s simply the rule: they are not required to pay corporate tax there. Now we might begin to relax that rule, which would be a huge change.
Lastly, as a postscript, there are also some works of literature that revolve around taxation. What would you recommend for people who are interested in reading about taxes in a literary way, rather than an economics/nonfiction way?
Mick: A few come to mind. One is an easy read. This is a wonderful short story by Mark Twain, called “A Mysterious Visit” . But it would spoil the joke if I were to describe it.
Then there’s a book called The Pale King , by David Foster Wallace. This is very long, and to be honest neither of us got to the end of it, yet. It’s about his experience working in an IRS office in Peoria, Illinois. It has many great observations that we use in our book, for example about the great secret of tax policy being that it’s so boring that no one takes an interest in it, and therefore governments are able to get away with murder. The book also has many striking asides about the IRS, some of them true, some of them false. For instance, he writes about the US government having plans in place for tax filing in the event of a nuclear attack, which turns out to be true, right Joel?
Joel: That one is true.
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Mick: There’s also a classic 19th century Russian novel that bears on oddities of tax systems: Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol . It plays on a feature of the Russian tax system, which charged serf owners a tax related to the number of their serfs, but with that number based on an outdated register. If a serf was dead, you still had to pay the tax. The main character, Chichikov, travels the country trying to buy these dead serfs in order to later claim them as collateral for a large loan. The fun is in the characters he encounters, and their reactions to his odd proposal. And there are plenty of insightful episodes along the way.
One is very relevant to tax administrations today. With most tax administrations—and as is often recommended by experts—a taxpayer who builds up a reputation for being honest gets better treatment. You may, for instance, get your VAT refunds faster if you have a good record. So, Chichikov builds up a reputation for being extremely trustworthy in relation to customs payments. And, of course, it’s all a prelude to a massive scam. This a nice reminder of possible pitfalls in standard ‘good practice’ in tax administration.
Do you have any fiction you’d like to add, Joel?
Joel: Those are the ones I would have mentioned. There is a book by Dorothy Sayers , the British mystery writer, An Unnatural Death , which turns out to revolve around estate tax. There was apparently a tax motive for one character to die before the end of 1925 because, as of January 1, 1926, the inheritance tax was about to change and would have led to somebody losing a lot of money.
I read a lot of mysteries and I think I’ve actually read that one!
Mick: We should also mention Robert Hart, a shy Northern Irish lad who went off to China in the mid-nineteenth century and became a wholly admirable and hugely respected head of China’s Imperial Customs Service. He kept diaries which include a lot about his very active and somewhat guilt-ridden amorous adventures. These have formed the basis for a novel, My Splendid Concubine , about his eventful career and ultimately quite sad love life. He fell in love with a Chinese woman and they had children but eventually parted. He is the only tax administrator we know of whose life inspired a work of fiction.
Joel: And the only tax administrator we know of whose life inspired a statue. There was a statue of him on the Shanghai Bund. It’s not there anymore, but we have a picture of it in the book.
On the other hand, quite a few people famous for their writings who had tax-related jobs, didn’t they?
Joel and Mick: Yes, Adam Smith , Chaucer , Voltaire, Cervantes, Herman Melville, Lavoisier, Tom Paine, Sam Adams all had tax-related jobs at some point. But they weren’t all very good at it.
May 26, 2021
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Joel Slemrod is professor of economics at the University of Michigan, where he is also Paul W. McCracken Collegiate Professor at the Ross School of Business. He has been awarded the National Tax Association’s Daniel M. Holland Medal for distinguished lifetime contributions to the study and practice of public finance, and is a past president of the International Institute of Public Finance.
Michael Keen is deputy director of the Fiscal Affairs Department at the International Monetary Fund. He has been awarded the National Tax Association’s Daniel M. Holland Medal for distinguished lifetime contributions to the study and practice of public finance, and is a past president of the International Institute of Public Finance.
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Business | Why you should check tax planning off your list…
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Business | Why you should check tax planning off your list now
We see them everywhere, like decorations — the dreaded year-end financial and tax to-do lists.
We already have holiday lists for gifts, cleaning and decorating, shopping and travel. Who needs another list? Not you and not me.
I’d much rather be sipping cocoa by the fire and playing with the kids than wrapping my head around more planning.
So, here is my early gift for you: Let’s check most year-end tax planning off your to-dos. I will let you in on a secret — tax planning is mostly about timing and not much has to be done right now, if at all.
So, let’s simplify what needs to be done and see what can be put off until next year so we can get back to having fun. If this looks like it will be TLDR (Too Long Didn’t Read), feel free to skip to the section that applies to you.
If you are an employee, the one thing I would suggest you do, if you can afford it, is to fully fund your employer-sponsored retirement at work by the end of the year.
However, if you have an IRA or Roth IRA, the deadline to fund those accounts is not until April 18, 2024. If you are young and in a low tax bracket or do not have emergency savings established, I would skip the additional contribution and put the funds in savings instead.
Another thing you might be able to put off is that if you have an FSA (flexible spending account) at work, you might not need to spend it by the end of the year. The IRS allows some employers to grant employees until March 15, 2024, to use FSA funds from 2023. Check with HR.
Investors and gig workers
If you are an investor, the one thing you should do is ask your adviser if you need to do some tax loss harvesting before year-end. Tax loss harvesting is a strategy where investors intentionally sell investments that have experienced a capital loss to offset capital gains and potentially reduce their overall tax liability. A quick call may help reduce your capital gains taxes.
If you are an investor or gig worker or need to pay estimated taxes for another reason, there is rarely a benefit to paying your January 15, 2024, estimated tax payment on or before Dec. 31, as some suggest. The deduction for paying the state taxes before year-end no longer benefits most taxpayers. If you are concerned, call your tax adviser and make sure not to spend the funds set aside for your January tax payment on gifts for the kids.
Business owners, landlords
If you own a business with a December year-end and expect to owe taxes, your most important task is to re-invest profits into your business. Many fixed asset purchases (furniture, equipment, and vehicles) qualify for Section 179 of the Tax Code, which offers an immediate expense deduction for purchases of business assets instead of depreciating the assets over several years.
Although you have to buy the assets this year, if you finance the purchases, you won’t have to pay for them until next year. Tax laws changed a few years ago, so landlords can now also take advantage of Sec 179 for personal property purchased for their rental properties. A quick call to your tax advisor will answer any questions about what assets qualify.
Also, call your retirement advisor and ask them when the deadline for contributing to your retirement plan is because deadlines vary. Some plans do not need to be funded until you file your return in 2024, so you can mark that off your list. I would, however, give your advisor a little work (and maybe extra chocolate) to verify the plan due dates and confirm that you are maximizing the contributions to your plan(s).
Did you know it is possible to have a business with a year that ends in a month other than December? Discuss the benefits of incorporating as a C-Corporation with a fiscal year-end with your tax advisor. Imagine never having to worry about year-end and entertaining family at the same time again.
If you are a retiree, every year-end list includes something about taking your RMD (Required Minimum Distribution) before year-end. If you are feeling charitable and don’t want to pay taxes on your RMD, the QCD (Qualified Charitable Distribution) is still available for 2023 with a new tax break.
Each year, an IRA owner age 70½ or over can exclude from gross income up to $100,000 of these QCDs if the rollover is made by Dec. 31. It is actually an easy process.
Starting in 2023, donors can also direct a one-time, $50,000 QCD to a charitable remainder trust or charitable gift annuity as part of recently passed SECURE Act 2.0 legislation. Call your retirement advisor or favorite charity for more information.
I get many calls from panicked trustees in December, believing they must distribute to beneficiaries before December 31st. Before issuing the checks, you should check to make sure your trust actually has a December year-end because it might not.
Next, Section 663(b) of the U.S. tax code allows fiduciaries of estates and complex trusts to make a 65-day election that gives fiduciaries until March 5th, 2024 (next year), to make beneficiary distributions and still be able to report them as paid in 2023 (the previous year). There is yet another task that can be put off until next year. Always call your trust attorney before making distributions to beneficiaries.
If you notice a pattern to my advice, it is to make a few important phone calls. This is an excellent time to say Happy Holidays and catch up with your trusted advisors. It also is not a bad time to drop off a nice gift.
Wishing you a stress-free, joyful time with family and friends, to-dos that matter, and a cup of cocoa by the fire.
Michelle C. Herting is a CPA, an Accredited Business Valuator, and an Accredited Estate Planner. She specializes in succession planning, business valuations, and settling trusts.
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‘Full expensing’: how short-term tax break can become a long-term fix
The planning system must change along with the tax incentives if the UK is to improve its dire investment record
J eremy Hunt called it the “largest business tax cut in modern British history”, a view that may not be shared by the hundreds of thousands of businesses in the service sector that don’t spend large sums on capital investment every year and are still adjusting to April’s general hike in corporation tax from 19% to 25%.
But so-called “full expensing” of spending on equipment, plant and machinery – or, rather, the making permanent of a tax-break that previously had a three-year life – can be welcomed by everybody else. A permanent regime looks the only one capable of improving the UK’s dire record on investment. And, since the push to net zero involves a multi-year upgrade on the nation’s energy infrastructure, getting rid of tax cliff-edges is a sensible piece of long-term policymaking. Labour, notably, backs the move.
How bad is the nation’s investment record? Since 1993 public and private investment has represented 18% of economic activity versus 21% for the rest of the G7, and the numbers have been substantially worse since 2016, noted the Panmure Gordon economist Simon French recently .
The standard argument against permanent full expensing is that it won’t accelerate investment, and may even slow it because companies no longer have a deadline to meet. And it’s true that Office for Budget Responsibility’s analysis predicted a short-term slowdown in investment. But that inevitable smoothing effect is hardly a killer objection.
Here’s one chief executive on how decisions are made at a company spending billions on heavy infrastructure: “Making full expensing permanent is not going to make me accelerate investment, but it definitely helps me to justify investment,” he says. “So, if the planning system is right, you will get more investment.” Quite: companies can be needy in their craving for certainty, but it does tend to help to get things built.
In fact, the other half of the long-termism programme – planning reform – looks the trickier job. Great Britain needs around four times as much new electricity transmission network to be built in the next seven years as has been since 1990, said Nick Winser, the new electricity commissioner, in his report to government in the summer.
In its formal response on Wednesday, ministers offered a sketch of what communities could be offered to “host” new pylons and sub-stations : “up to” £1,000 off their energy bills every year for 10 years, and a one-off £320,000 a mile for overhead lines, for instance.
Are those sums enough to silence opposition as new offshore windfarms are hooked up to the electricity grid? “Further work is needed to design the detail and implementation of the overall scheme,” said the document. You bet: full expensing of capital spending is easy to understand and simple to implement. Speeding up the planning system, and facing down local opposition to large schemes, requires political will.
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What price, the NatWest share sell-off?
Roll up, then, for shares in NatWest . “It’s time to get Sid investing again,” said the chancellor, ignoring the fact that a reference to the privatisation of British Gas in the 1980s may be lost on younger viewers. Never mind: the state wants to get rid of another chunk of its remaining 39% stake in the bailed-out bank and a sale to the public is as good a means as any.
Here’s the big qualification, though: while many of us would agree that wider share ownership is a fine and neglected ambition, it would be disgraceful if these shares are flogged at a deep discount to their fair value.
The price for a NatWest share is set by willing buyers and sellers in a liquid market every weekday. Yes, a small discount for selling a slug of shares in a single transaction is inevitable – that happens even when tranches are sold in institutional-only offers. But the discount in those previous bank sales (not just NatWest, but also Lloyds Banking Group) has generally been about 3%-4%.
The chancellor should not countenance much beyond that mark just because he’s selling to private citizens. NatWest was nationalised on behalf of all of us, so there ought to be a strict obligation to achieve the highest possible price at disposal. Anything else would be a bung to the Sids who can find a couple of thousand quid at short notice. Keep the discount tight. Do not short-change the public purse.
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Hunt planning to make biggest business tax cut in 50 years even more generous
Posted: November 23, 2023 | Last updated: November 23, 2023
Jeremy Hunt is planning to make one of the biggest business tax cuts in 50 years even more generous, official documents show.
The Chancellor is examining ways to expand a flagship £10bn tax break that allows companies to shave 25p off their tax bill for every £1 invested.
Documents released alongside Mr Hunt’s Autumn Statement speech show the Treasury will consult on whether to include leased assets in the policy, in a move that economists said will bring “significant benefits” to small businesses.
“The move to full expensing also provides us with an opportunity to permanently simplify capital allowances,” the documents say.
“The Government will therefore launch a technical consultation on wider changes to simplify the UK’s capital allowances legislation.”
The move will build on plans laid out in spring when the Government said it started “exploring the case for expanding the scope of full expensing to include assets for leasing with an industry working group”.
Treasury documents published on Wednesday said: “The Government will continue to carefully consider whether there is a case to do so and publish a technical consultation in due course to seek further input from a wider range of stakeholders.”
Businesses welcomed Mr Hunt’s decision to make the full expensing policy permanent but have called for the policy to be broadened.
Fhaheen Khan, senior economist at Make UK, the manufacturers’ lobby group, said: “Making the full expensing regime permanent will give businesses the stability and certainty they have been looking for to plan investments going forward.
“However, the capital allowance puzzle is only near completion and to make sure that the system is not just generous and long-term, but also accessible to all businesses, the Treasury must consider extending the scheme for leased plants and machinery which would result in a minimal additional cost to the taxpayer.”
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) estimates that extending the full expensing policy to leased assets would cost the Exchequer between £170m and £280m a year by 2026-27.
Nearly 15pc of manufacturers access plant and machinery through leasing in the UK and almost all of these companies are small and medium-sized businesses, according to Make UK.
Mr Khan said: “These companies will find limited access to full expensing for big ticket investments if they are not able to take advantage of leasing too.”
However, others warned that simplifying the rules around full expensing was vital to prevent a rise in “unproductive” debt-fuelled investments that qualify for a second tax deduction on debt interest.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said this could lead to a rise in “low-return” investments that would be unviable without extra tax relief.
Stuart Adam, senior economist at the IFS, said: “As a rule, the tax system should treat all investment equally, to avoid creating a bias towards investing in some assets rather than others. It would be better if full expensing were extended to cover all investment, not just plant and machinery.”
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In Biden’s Climate Law, a Boon for Green Energy, and Wall Street
The law has effectively created a new marketplace that helps smaller companies gain access to funding, with banks taking a cut.
By Jim Tankersley and Lauren Hirsch
Economics reporters in Washington and New York
The 2022 climate law has accelerated investments in clean-energy projects across the United States. It has also delivered financial windfalls for big banks, lawyers, insurance companies and start-up financial firms by creating an expansive new market in green tax credits.
The law, signed by President Biden, effectively created a financial trading marketplace that helps smaller companies gain access to funding, with Wall Street taking a cut. Analysts said it could soon facilitate as much as $80 billion a year in transactions that drive investments in technologies meant to reduce fossil fuel emissions and fight climate change.
The law created a wide range of tax incentives to encourage companies to produce and install solar, wind and other low-emission energy technologies. But the Democrats who drafted it knew those incentives, including tax credits, wouldn’t help companies that were too small — or not profitable enough — to owe enough in taxes to benefit.
So lawmakers have invented a workaround that has rarely been employed in federal tax policy: They have allowed the companies making clean-energy investments to sell their tax credits to companies that do have a big tax liability.
That market is already supporting large and small transactions. Clean-energy companies are receiving cash to invest in their projects, but they’re getting less than the value of the tax credits for which they qualify, after various financial partners take a slice of the deal.
Clean-energy and financial analysts and major players in the marketplace say big corporations with significant tax liability are currently paying between 75 and 95 cents on the dollar to reduce their federal tax bills. For example, a buyer in the middle of that range might spend $850,000 to purchase a credit that would knock $1 million off its federal taxes.
The cost of those tax credits depends on several factors, including risk and size. Larger projects command a higher percentage. The seller of a tax credit will see its value diluted further by fees for lawyers, banks and other financial intermediaries that help broker the sale. Buyers are also increasingly insisting that sellers buy insurance in case the project does not work out and fails to deliver its promised tax benefits to the buyer.
The prospect of a booming market and the chance to snag a piece of those transaction costs have raised excitement for the Inflation Reduction Act, or I.R.A., in finance circles. A new cottage industry of online start-up platforms that seeks to link buyers and sellers of the tax credits has quickly blossomed.
An annual renewable energy tax credit conference hosted by Novogradac, a financial firm, drew a record number of attendees to a hotel ballroom in Washington this month, with multiple panels devoted to the intricacies of the new marketplace. The entrepreneurs behind the online buyer-seller exchanges include a former Biden Treasury official and some people in the tech industry with no clean-energy or tax credit experience.
Tax professionals and clean-energy groups say the marketplace has widely expanded financing abilities for companies working on emissions-reducing technologies and added private-sector scrutiny to climate investments.
But those transactions are also enriching players in an industry that Mr. Biden has at times criticized, while allowing big companies to reduce their tax bills in a way that runs counter to his promise to make corporate America pay more.
“I wouldn’t call it irony. I would call it, sort of, this unexpected brilliance,” said Jessie Robbins, a principal of structured finance at the financial firm Generate Capital. “While it may be full of friction and transaction costs, it does bring sophisticated financial interests, investors” and corporations into the world of funding green energy, she said.
Biden administration officials say many clean-tech companies will save money by selling their tax credits to raise capital, instead of borrowing at high interest rates. “The alternative for many of these companies was to take a loan, and taking that loan was going to be far more costly” than using the credit marketplace, Wally Adeyemo, the deputy Treasury secretary, said in an interview.
Some backers of the climate law wanted an even more direct alternative for those companies: government checks equivalent to the tax benefits their projects would have qualified for if they had enough tax liability to make the credits usable. It was rejected by Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, a moderate Democrat who was the swing vote on the law.
A modest federal marketplace of certain tax credits, like those for affordable housing, existed before the climate law passed. But acquiring those credits was complicated and indirect, so annual transactions were less than $20 billion — and large banks dominated the space. The climate law expanded the market and attracted new players by making it much easier for a company with tax liability to buy another company’s tax credit.
“There weren’t brokers in this space, you know, a year ago or 14 months ago before the I.R.A. came out,” said Amish Shah, a tax lawyer at Holland & Knight. “There are lots of brokers in this space now.” Mr. Shah said he expected his firm to be involved in $1 billion worth of tax credits this year.
“The discussion goes like this,” said Courtney Sandifer, a senior executive in the renewable energy tax credit monetization practice at the investment bank BDO. “‘Are you aware that you can buy tax credits at a discount, as a central feature of the I.R.A.? And how would that work for you? Like, is this something that you’d be interested in doing?’”
Financial advisers say they have had interest from corporate buyers as varied as retailers, oil and gas companies, and others that see an opportunity to reduce their tax bills while making good on public promises to help the environment.
Experts say large banks are still dominating the biggest transactions, where projects are larger and tax credits are more expensive to buy. For the rest of the market, entrepreneurs are working to create online exchanges, which effectively work as a Match.com for tax credits. Companies lay out the specification of their projects and tax credits, including whether they are likely to qualify for bonus tax breaks based on location, what wages they will pay and how much of their content is made in America. Buyers bid for credits.
In order to sell tax benefits under the law, companies have to register their credits with the Treasury Department, which created a pilot registry website for those projects this month. The online platforms to connect buyers and sellers of the credits are not regulated by the government.
Alfred Johnson, who previously worked as deputy chief of staff under Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen, co-founded Crux, one of the online exchanges, in January. The company has raised $8.85 million through two rounds of funding.
Mr. Johnson said his business helped replace the “low-margin” administrative work that happens to facilitate deals. Lawyers and advisers will still be brought in for the more complicated parts of the deal.
“It just requires more companies coming into the market and participating,” he said. “And if that doesn’t happen, the law will not work.”
Seth Feuerstein created Atheva, a transferable credit exchange, last year. He has no clean-tech experience, but he has brought in green-energy experts to help get the exchange started.
Atheva already has tens of millions of dollars in projects available for tax-credit buyers to peruse on the site, with hundreds of millions more in the pipeline, he said. On the site, buyers can browse credits by their estimated value and download documentation to help assess whether the projects will actually pay off. Mr. Feuerstein said that transparency helped to assure taxpayers that they were supporting valid clean-energy investments.
“It’s a new market,” Mr. Feuerstein said. “And it’s growing every day.”
Jim Tankersley writes about economic policy at the White House and how it affects the country and the world. He has covered the topic for more than a dozen years in Washington, with a focus on the middle class. More about Jim Tankersley
Lauren Hirsch joined The Times from CNBC in 2020, covering deals and the biggest stories on Wall Street. More about Lauren Hirsch