Hastings Law Journal


Julie Roin


Recently, the tax expenditure budget has come under renewed attack. Some argue that the conceptual and implementational flaws in the tax expenditure budget justify discontinuing its publication. This Article argues that-if improving the utility of information distributed about the direction and function of government is a desired end-one must focus on the interaction between the various information sources rather than the merits or demerits of any particular source of information. In arguing for the publication of more, rather than less information, this Article points out the generality of the supposedly "fatal" flaws in the tax expenditure budget: all the sources of information we have about government spending suffer from problems similar if not identical to those identified in the tax expenditure budget, e.g. the absence of an agreed-upon baseline of a "normal" tax system against which to measure "tax expenditures." Rather than discontinuing publication of the tax expenditure budget, this Article argues that it should be supplemented with additional, albeit also imperfect information. In particular, this Article suggests that a cost benefit schedule and contact audits should accompany the tax expenditure budget. Although like the tax expenditure budget the information provided through these sources will not be perfect, it will promote the broader goals of transparency, voter awareness and government accountability.

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