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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International

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Working Paper

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Boston University School of Law




The federal income tax adjusts many but not all of its dollar components automatically to account for inflation. In this article I analyze the benefits and burdens this process confers on some taxpayers and the political logic behind them. I discuss the choice of the proper index for making the adjustments, as well as the effects of the failure to adjust specific dollar amounts. I conclude that some adjustments have become overly generous, while unadjusted provisions suffer slow repeal, sometimes intentionally. Indexation thus can have the effect of tax legislation by stealth.

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