Administering the Tax System We Have

Kristin E. Hickman


Traditional perceptions of tax exceptionalism from administrative law doctrines and requirements have been predicated at least in part on the importance of the tax code’s revenue raising function. Yet, Congress increasingly relies on the Internal Revenue Service to administer government programs that have little to do with raising revenue and much more to do with distributing government benefits to the economically disadvantaged, subsidizing approved activities, and regulating outright certain economic sectors like non-profits, pensions, and health care. As the attentions of the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service shift away from raising revenue and toward these other matters, the revenue-based justification for tax exceptionalism from general administrative law norms fades. To demonstrate the shift, the Article incorporates empirical analysis of Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service regulatory activity over time.

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