Emory Report
December 8, 2008
Volume 61, Number 14



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December 8
, 2008
Panel dissects proposal for tax policy changes

By Allison Shirreffs

As President-Elect Barack Obama continued to assemble his White House team, a group of lawyers, accountants, policymakers, business leaders and academics gathered at the School of Law to discuss an Obama presidency’s effect on tax policy. During the half-day symposium, “Great Expectations: The Outlook for U.S. Tax Policy,” experts touched on the Obama campaign promise of middle class tax cuts and tax increases for the wealthy, but noted that Obama’s immediate effects on tax policy will be to stem the nosediving U.S. economy.

Sponsored by Emory Law, the Center for Transactional Law and Practice, Goizueta Business School, McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP and the Georgia Society of CPAs, the symposium featured keynote speaker Edward D. Kleinbard, chief of staff for the Joint Committee on Taxation, who provided a behind-the-scenes look at the data and analysis policymakers use to make tax policy decisions. Congressional staffers Mark Prater, chief tax counsel for the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance, and John Buckley, chief tax counsel for the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, offered a view of tax policy direct from Capitol Hill — via live videoconference.

Joe Dowley, a partner in the Washington office of McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP and former chief counsel of the House Ways and Means Committee, offered a sobering presentation, “The Perfect Storm,” in which he explained the co-existence of an economic meltdown, the rising cost of U.S. debt, entitlement demographics, a health care system in crisis, engagement in two wars and energy imperatives highlights a need for tax reform.

The symposium ended with a roundtable that included Emory professors Dorothy Brown and Connie Kertz. The panel reviewed significant domestic and international tax policy reform proposals, including the implications of a second stimulus package and the possible effects of Obama’s tax proposals on the business sector.

While the panelists could not predict when the Obama administration will tackle tax policy, Dowley articulated the symposium’s prevailing sentiment: “The [tax] system simply isn’t paying for the government we have. It has to be dealt with. We can’t kick this can down the road any further.”