Tax and Distributive Justice

Discussion - 3 hours. This is an advanced tax course designed to introduce students to issues of tax policy, with particular emphasis on tax distribution (i.e., who or what should pay taxes in society) and tax incidence (i.e., who or what ends up paying taxes in society). The course will begin by examining official measurements of income and wealth distribution, as well as how those measurements comport with the philosophical foundations of various conceptions of justice in taxation, including libertarianism, utilitarianism, and liberal egalitarianism. We will then examine how alternative tax regimes advance or detract from the principal normative objectives of these various schools of thought. We will also examine several controversial issues of federal tax reform, including debates over the progressivity of the income tax, whether/how the government should tax estates/inheritance, whether/how the government should tax wealth, the tax treatment of low-income individuals, how the tax system affects different kinds of families (single-earner, dual-earner, married, single, opposite-sex, same-sex), and proposals for fundamental tax reform such as the adoption of a consumption tax (e.g., flat tax, VAT, retail sales tax). In each of these settings, students will examine how alternative conceptions of distributive justice translate into concrete proposals regarding how the cost of financing public goods should be allocated among members of society.

The class contains a writing requirement that students can satisfy in two ways: (i) prepare five short papers (4-6 pages) on issues covered in class; or (ii) prepare a long research paper (25-30 pages) on a topic that may or may not have been covered in class. Students choosing the second alternative can, if desired, qualify the paper for the law school's upper-level writing requirement.

Prerequisite: 220 Federal Taxation.
Graduation Requirements: May meet Advanced Writing Requirement with the instructor's permission.
Advanced Writing
Professional Skills
Course Number



Unit 16