An Ode to Sound Tax Administration

As our article in this issue of Fiscal Focus notes, the end of this year’s legislative session featured some last-minute frenetic decision-making regarding major corporate tax policy changes that didn’t exactly adhere to how policy issues of this significance ought to be vetted and discussed.   It was triggered largely by a failure to give the proper recognition and attention to the administrative realities and burden surrounding mandatory worldwide combined reporting.   Although the proposal received a hearing in the House Tax Committee, none of the important compliance, enforcement, and administrative issues were discussed.   

But the lack of attention to administrative concerns and realities surrounding tax policy is certainly not limited to high profile, big dollar proposals like this.  Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in the area of property taxation.   Every year well-intentioned property tax bills are introduced to advance a cause or interest which may sound reasonable but whose convoluted implementation and administrative requirements would set county assessors’ hair on fire.   

To be sure, the nitty-gritty of implementing and administering tax policy is not easy to discuss or digest.  But it’s no less important to good tax policy than all the many other well-known and popular considerations and principles.

Our annual meeting this year will include a look at the potential contributions of artificial intelligence to government operations including applications and issues in tax administration.  Out of curiosity I asked the most basic form of AI – the chatbot ChatGPT -- to write a poem extolling its virtues.   Here is what the program spit out (in about five seconds):

In realms where numbers dance and ledgers reign, 
Where fairness meets the power to sustain, 
Lies the domain of tax administration, 
Efficiency the creed of this foundation.

With purpose firm, its mission takes its flight, 
To uphold justice and ensure what's right, 
A well-oiled machine, precision its guide, 
Navigating through laws, side by side.

Efficient tax administration stands tall, 
A guardian of order, serving one and all, 
Through digital prowess, it streamlines the flow, 
Reducing burdens, enabling growth to grow.

By harnessing technology's gentle touch, 
Processes streamlined, the system's gears clutched, 
Minimizing errors, enhancing trust, 
Enabling prosperity, a must.

Transparency the beacon, shining bright, 
Accountability woven into its light, 
For every taxpayer, a partner fair, 
Navigating the maze with utmost care.

Through audits and assessments, a balanced view, 
Ensuring compliance, equity anew, 
Efficient tax administration, the keystone, 
Protecting the state and its treasury's throne.

So let us celebrate this noble art, 
For it binds our society, sets us apart, 
Efficient tax administration, we commend, 
A guardian of progress, from start to end.

A bit spooky?  Sure.  But we wouldn’t object to having this stapled to the back of every revenue notice the Department prepares next year.