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It is a pleasure for me to be here today to deliver the Erwin N. Griswold Lecture. And it is an honor to follow those who have graced this lectern before me. They include important mentors to me. Several are close friends. Today, we are in a quiet interlude awaiting the next serious political debate about restructuring the nation's tax system. No fundamental tax policy concerns are at stake in the current disputes over economic stimulus or in the political huffing and puffing about postponing or accelerating the income tax rate cuts of the 2001 Act. Those arguments are concerned principally with positioning Democratic and Republican candidates for the 2002 congressional election, not tax policy.

But the coming decade with its paint-by-numbers phase-ins and phase-outs of 2001 Act tax changes, the tax cuts waiting to spring into effect, along with the sunset of the entire Act in 2011, makes this a propitious time to take a hard look at the nation's tax system. It is impossible to describe the nation's current tax system in anything other than tentative and uncertain terms. Even the most sophisticated tax lawyer cannot be sure what the current statute means for the future. Should we, for example, believe that more than 35 million taxpayers nearly one-third of all individual filers-will be subject to the alternative minimum tax, as the current law implies, or should we instead be confident that some future Congress will avert that train wreck? Has the estate tax really been repealed? The 2001 law repeals that tax only for the year 2010. That is why Paul Krugman described that year as an auspicious time to "throw Mama from the train"-at least if she is rich.


Law | Taxation-Federal | Tax Law


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