Expert Pitch: Complexities of tax reform

Steve Johnson, Dunbar Family Professor at FSU College of Law
Steve Johnson, Dunbar Family Professor at FSU College of Law

President Donald Trump’s proposed revisions to the tax code, which include dramatically reducing the corporate tax rate and expanding the standard deduction available to individuals on their tax returns, represent significant and politically contentious shifts in the ways that The United States government taxes its citizens and businesses.

As additional details about Trump’s tax plan continue to emerge, experts from Florida State University are available to comment.

Randall G. Holcombe, DeVoe Moore Professor of Economics, Department of Economics: (850) 644-7095;
Holcombe served on former Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s council of economic advisors from 2000-2006. His primary areas of research are public finance and the economic analysis of public policy.

“The United States currently has one of the world’s highest corporate income tax rates at 35 percent. President Trump’s proposal to lower it to 15 percent is a move in the right direction, as is his proposal to tax self-owned business income at the 15 percent rate. Lowering personal rates slightly and limiting itemized deductions while increasing the standard deduction is also a good move. The tax system would be better for the American economy if the president’s recommendations are implemented.” 

Steve R. Johnson, Dunbar Family Professor of Law, College of Law: (850) 644-1777; 

Johnson is a nationally recognized scholar on tax litigation and procedure, including legislative and administrative law topics in tax. Johnson has published two casebooks, “Civil Tax Procedure” and “Tax Crimes,” and has authored numerous scholarly articles on tax procedure and tax law.

“Taken individually, some of the Administration’s suggestions would be helpful; others would be harmful. But taken together, they miss the real point. The suggestions are intended to spur economic growth. Tax changes can do that only marginally. The more powerful pro-growth engines would be regulatory reform and reduced federal spending.

Unfortunately, it’s a lot easier politically to talk about giving people something (reduced taxes) than taking something away from them (spending which hurts the country as a whole but benefits entrenched groups). Debate about tax reform that ultimately is likely to go nowhere distracts us from harder but more important debates.”

Jeffrey H. Kahn, Harry W. Walborsky Professor of Law, College of Law: (850) 644-7474;
Kahn’s scholarship focuses primarily on the federal tax area. He has authored numerous articles in both general law reviews and tax journals. Kahn worked for three years as a tax associate in the Chicago office of McDermott Will & Emery and has served on the faculties at Washington & Lee School of Law, Pennsylvania State University Dickinson School of Law and Santa Clara University School of Law.

“No one would argue that our current tax system does not need to be reformed. Still, like most significant tax proposals, the “Better Way” House Tax Plan is a mixed bag. There are some good proposals that would help simplify and create a more efficient tax system for both business and personal taxpayers.

The proposal to cut corporate tax rates and shift to a territorial international tax system likely will help increase American firms’ competitiveness. On the other hand, other parts of the proposals add complexity and overall the plan loses a significant amount of revenue. It is very unlikely that every aspect of this proposal will become law, but it provides us a sense of the direction that Republicans would like to take with major tax reform.”

Milton Marquis, Professor of Economics, Department of Economics:
From 2000-2003, Marquis served as a Senior Economist in the Research Department of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. He has been a Visiting Scholar at the Bank of Japan, authored two economics textbooks and published over twenty scholarly articles on monetary theory, monetary policy and macroeconomic theory in journals like Economica, the Review of Economics and Statistics and the Economic Journal.

Luke P. Rodgers, Assistant Professor of Economics: (850) 644-3817;

Rodgers is an applied microeconomic researcher whose current topics include the child and dependent care tax credit and the tax deduction for charitable contributions. He also is affiliated with the L. Charles Hilton Jr. Center for the Study of Economic Prosperity and Individual Opportunity at FSU.

“Tax reform presents an opportunity to address numerous concerns related to economic growth, the income distribution, and business competitiveness, to name but a few. Popular tax deductions, particularly the one for state and local taxes, will be at the center of the debate yet again. I encourage anyone interested in the topic to read ‘Showdown at Gucci Gulch’ for a fascinating look at how economic ideals clash with political realities.” 

Adam A. Millsap, assistant director, L. Charles Hilton Center for the Study of Economic Prosperity and Individual Opportunity: (614) 795-8825;

Millsap conducts research on urban development, population trends and federal and urban public policy. His commentary has appeared in national publications such as The Hill, USA Today, Real Clear Policy and US News and World Report. He is also a Forbes contributor.

“Tax reform needs to focus on lowering rates, especially the corporate income tax rate, and simplifying the tax code. High corporate income taxes discourage investment, and less investment means less productive workers and lower wages. Research shows that a large portion of corporate income taxes is paid by workers and consumers in the form of lower wages and higher prices, respectively. The costs of complying with the U.S. tax code are also unnecessarily high due to the code’s complex mix of exemptions, deductions and credits. A simpler tax code will decrease compliance costs and save individuals and businesses precious time and money that can be better used elsewhere.”