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Should the IRS Know Your Race? The Challenge of Colorblind Tax Data by Jeremy Bearer-Friend ★

Wednesday, Sep 23, 2020 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm

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Current Issues in Tax Law and Policy Colloquium


a virtual Zoom presentation


Should the IRS Know Your Race?

The Challenge of Colorblind Tax Data


Jeremy Bearer-Friend


September 23, 2020

4:00-6:00 p.m.


**Zoom info will be provided 24-hours before the Colloquium. Please RSVP using link below**



Abstract Article


This Article draws from original archival sources to document a century of colorblindness in federal tax data. It traces the omission of race and ethnicity from IRS statistical publications since 1913, Joint Committee on Taxation publications since 1926, and Treasury Office of Tax Analysis publications since 1974. It shows how these omissions are exceptional relative to other areas of public policy where federal data on race and ethnicity are readily available, such as student achievement or healthcare exchange enrollments. It then evaluates the merits of colorblind tax data and argues that tax data should include race and ethnicity in order to meet goals of transparency, democracy, and equality. Colorblind tax data obscure racial inequality and prevent its remedy. Colorblind tax data also undermine the democratic accountability of tax policy. In fairness to the status quo practice of colorblindness by federal tax data institutions, this Article also considers whether the possible justifications for colorblind tax data should override principles of equality and transparency. It argues they should not. This Article concludes by proposing a variety of alternatives to the current colorblind tax data regime that do not require adding questions about race or ethnicity to Form 1040.


About Professor Bearer-Friend


Professor Jeremy Bearer-Friend’s research views taxpaying as a civic act that shapes a citizen’s relationship to government. His scholarship examines the omission of race and ethnicity from tax data collection and tax data analysis, the use of administrative discretion to shape the civic features of taxpaying, and the potential of elective in-kind contributions to government in lieu of, or in tandem with, cash payments. Professor Bearer-Friend also writes on the taxation of business entities. His work in this area examines the asymmetric design of federal tax remittance for wages relative to business income, M&A tax incentives that encourage monopolies, and the use of political indicators to measure the incidence of the corporate tax.


Professor Bearer-Friend joined GW Law after serving as Acting Assistant Professor of Tax Law at NYU, where he taught courses on federal estate and gift tax, tax procedure, and tax policy. Prior to academia, Professor Bearer-Friend was Tax Counsel to Senator Elizabeth Warren, leading the Senator’s work on a wide range of tax matters, including tax filing simplification, international tax reform, and the tax treatment of student loan discharges. Professor Bearer-Friend was also an associate with DC tax boutique Ivins, Phillips & Barker, where he advised clients on federal income tax, estate and gift tax, and employee benefits issues.


Professor Bearer-Friend is actively engaged with public policy and regularly advises journalists, think tanks, presidential campaigns, and congressional staff on tax law. His research has been cited by the National Women’s Law Center, the Center for Budget & Policy Priorities, and the Roosevelt Institute. Professor Bearer-Friend graduated magna cum laude from Brown University with a BA in Comparative Literature and holds an MA in Education from the University of California, Berkeley, and a JD from Stanford Law School. Prior to transferring to Brown, he attended Deep Springs College, a 26 student college located on an operating cattle ranch and alfalfa farm in Eastern California.


This colloquium, hosted by the Graduate Tax Program, brings leading tax scholars and tax-policy experts to present their works in progress to a tax law seminar class at UCI Law. Anyone with a keen interest in tax policy is welcome to attend. The colloquium differentiates itself from other workshops by emphasizing tax issues of current relevance.


MCLE credit is offered and will be provided via email after the presentation. Please RSVP via the respective links for each event below and email Natascha Fastabend at nfastabend@law.uci.edu if you require MCLE credit.


For more event details, please email gradtax@law.uci.edu


This event is approved for 2.0 Continuing Legal Education Credit by the

State Bar of California. UCI Law is a State Bar-approved MCLE provider.



To request reasonable accommodations for a disability, please email gradtax@law.uci.edu


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