Taxing Ourselves, Fourth Edition

Taxing Ourselves, Fourth Edition

A Citizen's Guide to the Debate over Taxes

By Joel Slemrod and Jon Bakija

The fourth edition of a popular guide to the key issues in tax reform, discussing the current system and alternative proposals clearly and without a political agenda.





The fourth edition of a popular guide to the key issues in tax reform, discussing the current system and alternative proposals clearly and without a political agenda.

As Albert Einstein may or may not have said, "The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax." Indeed, to follow the debate over tax reform, the interested citizen is forced to choose between misleading sound bites and academic treatises. Taxing Ourselves bridges the gap between the two by discussing the key issues clearly and without a political agenda: Should the federal income tax be replaced with a flat tax or sales tax? Should it be left in place and reformed? Can tax cuts stimulate the economy, or will higher deficits undermine any economic benefit? Authors and tax policy experts Joel Slemrod and Jon Bakija lay out in accessible language what is known and not known about how taxes affect the economy, offer guidelines for evaluating tax systems, and provide enough information to assess both the current income tax system and the leading proposals to reform or replace it (including the flat tax and the consumption tax).

The fourth edition of this popular guide has been extensively revised to incorporate the latest information, covering such recent developments as the Bush administration's tax cuts (which expire in 2011) and the alternatives proposed by the President's Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform. Slemrod and Bakija provide us with the knowledge and the tools—including an invaluable voter's guide to the tax policy debate—to make our own informed choices about how we should tax ourselves.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262195737 396 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 12 figures, 11 tables


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262693639 396 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 12 figures, 11 tables


  • Citizens should read Taxing Ourselves before casting their votes in local, state, and national elections. Politicians should read Taxing Ourselves before taxing us.

    Robert C. Schiming

    Business Library Review

  • A fair-minded exposition of a politically loaded subject.

    Kirkus Reviews

  • An excellent book.

    Jeff Madrick

    New York Times

  • This truly splendid book effectively outlines most issues related to a major topic of concern today. Tax policy and options for badly needed tax reform are thoroughly and engagingly dealt with by mixing serious debate with supporting anecdotes. The book is well written and carefully argued.

    E. D. Craig



  • The newest edition of Taxing Ourselves provides a comprehensive treatment of the issues and a fresh look at recent developments in US tax policy. Using the clear language that has been a hallmark of earlier editions, Slemrod and Bakija lead the citizen taxpayer through the jungle of tax provisions and jargon to an understanding of how the tax system affects our lives, how we might do better, and what roadblocks stand in the way.

    Alan Auerbach

    Robert D. Burch Professor of Economics and Law, and Director, Burch Center for Tax Policy and Public Finance, University of California, Berkeley

  • A major impediment to rational tax reform is that most politicians, journalists, and citizens fail to grasp the key issues. Even those who understand much about taxes may be naïve about tax policy. With Taxing Ourselves, all can stop making excuses and start making sense.

    Louis Kaplow

    Finn M.W. Caspersen and Household International Professor of Law and Economics, Harvard

  • This book is a most timely and thoughtful discussion of the federal tax system and current proposals for its reform. Thorough, objective, and up-to-date in its analysis and set in the historical/political context, this book is a must-read for every citizen and student who wishes enlightenment on one of the most vital and controversial issues of the day.

    Peggy B. Musgrave

    University of California, Santa Cruz

  • Joel Slemrod and Jon Bakija have done it again. The new edition of Taxing Ourselves is a beautifully written and up-to-date treatment of the theoretical, empirical, and institutional aspects of tax policy. Both students and aficionados of tax policy will find this volume an invaluable resource.

    Harvey Rosen

    Department of Economics, Princeton University