Need Help-Analysis of a Presidential Candidate’s Tax Reform Proposal
CRITICAL THINKING THROUGH WRITING (CTW) PROJECT
Analysis of a Presidential Candidate’s Tax Reform Proposal
To properly advise clients, tax professionals must understand not only the current rules but also where the law is going. Therefore, they must follow tax policy debates and stay informed about proposals to change our tax system. Each of the 20+ U.S. 2016 Presidential candidates has proposed her/his own ideas for reforming the federal tax system. It is likely that portions of one or more of the candidates’ tax reform plans will see action under the new Administration after 2016. Therefore, the objective of this paper is to provide compelling arguments supporting the tax reform plan of any one of the presidential candidates. You may select any legitimate candidate, including one who may have dropped out of the race.
The paper counts approximately 3.3% of the overall course grade (a maximum of 10 points out of 300 total possible course points). The quiz grade will be posted on a 100-point scale prior to the last class session.
It is anticipated that this will be a “think” paper and not a research paper. Therefore, any sources used should be presented within the narrative rather then with footnotes. The paper will be evaluated according to the following grading rubric:
|Description||# Pts.||% Points|
|Presentation of policy objectives to be achieved||2||20%|
|Summary of the proposed changes||2||20%|
|Advocacy of the proposed changes||2||20%|
|Overall organization and structure||4||40%|
|Maximum number of points||10||100%|
PRESENTATION OF POLICY OBJECTIVE TO BE ACHIEVED (20%).
Persuasive Opening. The paper should open with a persuasive, “bleeding heart” appeal to correct an inequity in the tax system or to stimulate a certain segment of society. Areas to consider might include simplifying the tax code, stimulating capital expenditures, encouraging higher education, eliminating the marriage penalty, redistributing wealth to help the needy, strengthening the economy, etc. Just pick one area from the options.) The policy objective should be thorough. For example, if the selected presidential candidate’s objective is to eliminate the marriage penalty, it would not be enough to state that society generally regards marriage as a valued institution. A more persuasive policy objective should provide several reasons why marriage is so regarded by society (e.g., effect on children, crime, financial stability, etc.) and to point out how tax law undermines marriage.
Avoiding Frivolous Statements. An effective policy objective should avoid frivolous assertions, e.g., “Congress should mitigate the marriage penalty due to the high cost of weddings.”
SUMMARY OF THE PROPOSED CHANGES (20%).
This section should offer specific changes to the tax system being proposed by the selected presidential candidate.
Linkage Between Proposed Changes and Policy Objectives. Proposed changes to the tax system should be thoughtfully developed and carefully linked to the policy objectives provided at the opening of the paper.
Depth of Proposed Changes. Each proposed change should clearly explain (a) how the current law creates an inequity in society, (b) the “nuts and bolts” of the proposed change, and (c) how the proposed change would eliminate the inequity.
Relevance of Information Presented. “Nuts and bolts” details supporting a given proposal should be relevant. Too much detail (e.g., a sea of numbers) or misdirected information (e.g., saying the IRS is to blame for the marriage penalty) may weaken the argument.
Effective Use of Tables for Comparative Data. Any comparative data presented should be presented in a table, not in a paragraph. The table should be preceded by a sentence explaining the purpose of the table. All data within the table should be clearly labeled. The table should convey a point rather than merely list the data.
Concise Arguments. Arguments should be concise, not verbose with redundant wording that merely takes up space but add little value to the argument.
Accurate Explanation of Current Tax Law. Any reference to the current tax law should be accurate.
ADVOCACY OF THE PROPOSED CHANGES (20%).
This section should explain how the proposed changes will achieve the policy objective.
Careful Consideration of Criticism. The paper should anticipate possible criticisms and offer resolutions. For example, on the subject of educational tax credits, one common criticism might be that tax credits would create a drain on Treasury revenues. A response to this anticipated criticism might follow along the line that a more educated work force would enable the Treasury to recoup its short-term loss over the long-term. When referring to the consequence of a proposal on a quantitative concept such as the Treasury or a segment of the population, try to quantify your terms, even if it means taking an educated guess.
Substantiated Support for Arguments. When presenting factual support for arguments, try to avoid choosing words that tend to add subjectivity to your position. For example:
- Subjective wording: Twenty million married couples are hurt by the marriage penalty. (How are they “hurt?”)
- Objective wording: Twenty million married couples paid an average $1,400 of additional taxes solely because they chose to be married rather than single.
- Subjective wording: The majority of taxpayers take the standard deduction. (Too ambiguous—“majority” can mean any percentage between 51 and 100 percent.)
- Objective wording: Historically, about 70 percent of taxpayers claim the standard deduction.
Careful Choice of Wording. Arguments with carefully chosen words tend to be more persuasive.
- Poor choice of wording. The Code should be
- Proper choice of wording: The Code should be
Try to avoid using slang. It tends to undermine the appearance of objectivity.
- Poor choice of wording. In 1969, Congress tweaked the Code.
- Proper choice of wording: In 1969, Congress widened the income tax brackets for single filers from 50 percent to 60 percent of the brackets for joint filers.
Careful Choice of Facts. A forceful argument of the proposals should be consistent with the policy objective. Avoid stating a fact that might weaken your position. For example, the statement, “No study has been made to establish that tax incentives actually affect marriage decisions,” may or may not be true, but why would an advocate for the repeal of the marriage penalty make such a statement? It suggests that couples contemplating marriage would be indifferent to the repeal of the marriage penalty.
Forceful Conclusion. A forceful conclusion should clearly describe the economic and social impact of the proposal. It should not be redundant (e.g., repeating previous arguments in detail) nor too brief (e.g., repeating the appeal for marriage reform too broadly, such as in one or two sentences without summarizing the economic or social justification.
OVERALL ORGANIZATION AND STRUCTURE (40%).
|The following writing parameters must be followed:
· Length. Not more than one page—but more than a few sentences;
· Spacing. Single-spaced;
· Font type: Times New Roman;
· Font size: #12 font size;
· Margins: 1″ margins; block the right-hand margins. Right-hand blocking is simple but effective for a polished business communication. It merely requires scanning the contents and pressing the block-formatting command.
· Using grammar-check & spell-check. Obvious grammatical errors and spelling errors (“From my understanding the transactions we [sic] that have occurred,” “… received a load [sic] from First National Bank,” “Per you [sic] question,” “Here is a few information … ,” “This difference will be show [sic] as either …,” “singed” for “signed,” et. al.) should be avoided with Microsoft Word’s check-controls.
· Using headers effectively. Long, multiple paragraphs should be preceded by short, concise headers that let the reader know what you’re about to say. (Hint: Consider making headers from the first three parts of the grading rubric above.)
· Writing in third person. Write all solutions in third person; avoid writing in first (“I, me”) or second person (“you”). Third person conveys an air of objectivity, an essential professional standard of CPAs.
· Avoiding casual or subjective language. Try to avoid using language that may be viewed by the reader as casual or subjective (e.g., “First off … ,” or “… there are a few things that will worry the IRS,” “… so you do not need to fret right now …,” et. al.)
· Avoiding run-on sentences. Try to avoid run-on sentences such as this 61-word sentence:
“However, because $3 million goes toward retiring the outstanding balance of the short term note, the remaining $7 million goes toward the contraction costs for year 2, and $0 is used to replenish the cash used by ABC company is able to exclude the full amount of the short-term note payable from the current liability section of its year 1 balance sheet.”
· Citing sources or supporting authority. An analysis is not complete without reference to sources or supporting authority.
· Writing with emphasis on the “journey,” not the “destination.” Short, choppy conclusions score poorly in both academic and professional environments. Better to support conclusions with a thorough analysis.
GETTING STARTED. To help get you started, consider these two sources:
1. The Tax Foundation provides a comparison of presidential candidates’ tax proposals at:
2. A comprehensive listing of 2016 Presidential candidates with links to their websites, Facebook pages, and Twitter feeds is available at:
Need Help-Analysis of a Presidential Candidate’s Tax Reform Proposal