On July 10, the Bipartisan Policy Center hosted a panel on the evidence-based evaluation of tax expenditure programs, such as LIHTC and Investment Tax Credits. It coincided with the release of a new report entitled “Evaluating Tax Expenditures: Introducing Oversight Into Spending Through the Tax Code”.
The event discussed the necessity of evaluating tax expenditures with a cost-benefit analysis as well as the political challenges and technical difficulties of doing so. Eugene Steuerle, one of the paper’s authors, offered suggestions to the IRS to re-organize and devote more resources to collecting data for tax expenditure policy analysis. Thomas Barthold, the Chief of Staff of the Joint Committee of Taxation (JCT) since 2009, reflected that Congress has placed some time and energy to evaluate costs and benefits of all the major affordable housing programs, including tax expenditures such as the LIHTC and other spending programs such as Section 8. He defends the current evaluations of these programs, but still perceives the utility of a more rigorous cost-benefit analysis.
Other challenges described by the panel include the complexities in quantifying social benefits of tax expenditure programs, political compromises made in Congress that occasionally yield ineffective policy, and the necessity to find policy solutions involving tax credits that will prevent additional growth of economic inequality.
A key theme from the panel is that collaboration and communication between politicians, developers, nonprofits and other businesses is essential for implementing optimal housing policy. A full recording of this engaging, politically diverse panel can be found on the Bipartisan Policy Center’s website.