Opinion: GOP considering a half-trillion-dollar tax-reform trick involving tax extenders

By Maya MacGuineas, The Hill.

Washington has a history of budgetary magic tricks — move money around enough, borrow from this to pay that, and it is hard to keep track of spending and easy to claim fiscal victory. Accounting gimmicks have put bottom lines in-line on paper for decades, all while creating huge and damaging deficits. 

Tax reform may turn out to be no different. 

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have said tax reform should be revenue-neutral, meaning the plan raises as much money as the current tax code. 

As a strong proponent of pro-growth tax reform, I would completely agree. With debt at near record levels, now is not the time to be adding to it.


Revenue neutrality is more than a preference — budget reconciliation rules that allow a plan to pass with a simple majority in the Senate also require it. No plan can add to the debt outside the 10-year budget window under the rules. 

But as is so often the case with budgeting, it all comes down to the baseline, and for tax reform to be revenue neutral, the first question is: compared to what?