Call for Submissions C. Lowell Harriss Dissertation Fellowship Program

The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy invites applications for the C. Lowell Harriss Dissertation Fellowship Program, which is designed to support doctoral students who are writing dissertations in the fields of valuation and taxation.

This fellowship program, named for the Columbia University economist and longtime member of the Lincoln Institute board, provides an important link between the Lincoln Institute’s educational mission and its research objectives by supporting scholars early in their careers.

Please share this information with your academic department. If you have questions, contact

Applications are due by email on or before March 16, 2020, by 6:00 p.m. (EST).

Reflections on Teaching a Doctoral Public Affairs Seminar in Public Finance

This semester I teach my doctoral public affairs seminar in public revenue. When I was a graduate economics student, most of the emphasis in the analogous class I took was on learning how to solve the calculus laid out in theoretical papers and understanding their relationship to structural empirical work. Overall you learn a lot about how to write a paper right now in the field. What are the major questions being asked? How are they being approached? What are the data/methods/literature being cited?

That is a very good way to teach a doctoral seminar, but I’ve drifted away from it. They get some of that, of course, but I feel like in many ways those are some of the easiest things to pick up by attending a conference or skimming recent issues of journals. I also have only so much capability to remain current on those questions for all the variety of topics in any case. What is the best thing to learn in a field when you have a weekly 3-hours conversation for four months? Or perhaps, what can be learned that benefits most from that design?

I have drifted (not yet “arrived”) towards organizing the course around “classics” where for a variety of topics the students read them to see the history of thought. I still need them to be able to pick up and read a contemporary technical paper, but I want them also to be able to read the paper in its place over the long arch of a topic, as part of a multi-decade conversation emerges that they (the students) are going to join. A drawback of figuring out how to jump into a literature “right now” is that it tends to discuss the literature as originating with something like a 1995 Diff-in-Diff. It is definitely true that this is important, but it feels shallow to me compared to the intellectual tradition one joins. Of more current papers, I like the ones that connect to that history.

Public finance, make no mistake, has a intellectually rich history of scholarship that I would consider a tragedy to lose. The oldest ideas relate to problems of state building, competing philosophies of equitable contributions/sacrifice, notions of democratic rights, and individual self-worth. Excess burden is not an obvious welfare statistic, but emerged through arguments of treating individuals as having some piece of the divine in them worthy of respected rights. The history of thought approach, I think, also carries with it the hope that students will potentially be better trained for the questions that we aren’t asking right now and drawing more personal self-worth out of their own research agenda.

For those interested, here are is my reading list and critical reflection questions. As I said, it is drifting and not yet arrived, and would appreciate any suggestions. (E.g. I still don’t have a harmonious way to bring in John Stuart Mill’s writings on “the tax state,” I probably need to add a wealth tax section to do so.)

Here is a sample from the critical reflection questions:

Optimal Taxation

Imagine humans invent a machine that produces a same-age perfectly identical twin. There is a marginal cost to using the machine to make this copy. Offer some perspectives from the readings on how to think about the Optimal Tax Policy in this brave new world. 1 page.

And here are my introductory week readings, a series of “chapter 1’s”:

Public Finance: Introduction

Hillman, Arye L. (2017). “Markets.” Chapter 1 in Public Finance and Public Policy, 3rd Edition. Cambridge Press.

Musgrave, Richard A. and Peggy B. Musgrave.  1980.  Public Finance in Theory and Practice, New York: McGraw-Hill. Chapter 1.

Poterba, James M.  1998.  “Public Finance and Public Choice,” National Tax Journal, 51 (2): 391-396.

Martin, Isaac William, Ajay K. Mehrotra, Monica Prasad. 2009. “The Thunder of History: The Origins and Development of the New Fiscal Sociology.” Chapter 1 of The New Fiscal Sociology: Taxation in Comparative and Historical Perspective. Cambrdige Press.

Monson, Andrew and Walter Scheidel. 2015. “Studying Fiscal Regimes.” Chapter 1 of Fiscal Regimes and the Political Economy of Premodern States. Cambridge Press.

December issue of the NTJ (2019)

The new issue of the NTJ is now available online:

The Geometry of International Tax Planning After the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act: A Riff on Circles, Squares, and Triangles

Michael P. Donohoe, Gary A. McGill, and Edmund Outslay

Macroeconomic Effects of Reducing OASI Benefits: A Comparison of Seven Overlapping-Generations Models

Jaeger Nelson and Kerk Phillips

Rethinking the Green New Deal: Using Climate Policy to Address Inequality

Aparna Mathur

States’ Addiction to Sins: Sin Tax Fallacy

Lucy Dadayan

Taxing Wealth in an Uncertain World

Daniel Hemel

The Barriers Created by Complexity: A State-by-State Analysis of Local Sales Tax Laws in Light of the Wayfair Ruling

Whitney B. Afonso

After Wayfair: What Are State Use Taxes Worth?

John L. Mikesell and Justin M. Ross

Digital Services Taxes: Principle as a Double-Edged Sword

John Vella

The Superiority of the Digital Services Tax Over Significant Digital Presence Proposals

Wei Cui

Superiority of the VAT to Turnover Tax as an Indirect Tax on Digital Services

Karl Russo

Call for Papers: 9th Annual Municipal Finance Conference

13 Jul 2020 – 14 Jul 2020, Brookings Institution, Washington, DC

The 9th annual Municipal Finance Conference ( is to be held July 13-14, 2019 at the Brookings Institution. The conference is sponsored by the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy at the Brookings Institution, the Rosenberg Institute of Global Finance at Brandeis International Business School, Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis, and the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago.

The Municipal Finance Conference aims to bring together academics, practitioners, and state and local government officials to discuss recent research on municipal finance and economic and fiscal issues affecting state and local governments more broadly. In recent years, paper topics have included changing rules for advance refunding, the impact of local newspaper closures on municipal borrowing costs, changes in the municipal advisor market in the post Dodd-Frank era, the risk of fiscal collapse in coal-reliant communities, the sustainability of state and local government pensions, the evolution of insurance value in municipal markets, and an analysis of highway construction costs.

– We are seeking proposals on a broad variety of topics related to state and local fiscal policy and public finance.
– Papers do not have to be original to this conference. We welcome papers that have been presented elsewhere.
– Deadline for proposals is February 21, 2020. Selection decisions will be made by March 20, and drafts of selected papers will be due by May 22.
– Please send your proposal or abstract to Haowen Chen (

The agenda for last year’s conference is posted here:

Call for Papers: 76th Annual International Institute of Public Finance

The 76th IIPF Conference is August 19-21, 2020 at the University of Iceland in Reykjavik.

The congress main theme is Public Finance, Natural Resources and Climate Change. In line with this theme, the congress provides a venue for presenting and discussing cutting-edge research in public economics of natural resources. The conference main theme should also accommodate fruitful discussion of the public economics of climate change, both with respect to actions to slow that process and the public economics consequences of climate change.

The Icelandic economy is largely based on harnessing the riches of nature. Iceland is also at the boarder of the Arctic region which stands to be disproportionally affected by climate change. Thus the main theme of the conference and her location are in good harmony. As is traditional at IIPF congresses, next to the main theme the program includes presentations from a wide range of topics in all areas of public economics.

Plenary lectures will be given by keynote speakers Anna Alberini (University of Maryland, USA), Karen Palmer (Resources for the Future, USA), Ottmar Edenhofer (University of Technology Berlin and Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Germany), and Rick van der Ploeg (University of Oxford, UK). There will be about 100 contributed-paper sessions with 300-400 papers that address a wide range of policy-relevant public finance issues using state-of-the art methods. The program features scholars from around the world, and promises to be both stimulating and informative.

Paper Submission Start
December 9, 2019

Registration Start
January 15, 2020

Deadline for Paper Submission
February 15, 2020

Notification of Paper Acceptance
Early April 2020

Deadline for Payment of Membership or Submission Fee to the IIPF
February 15, 2020

Deadline for Registration of Accepted Authors
June 1, 2020

End of Early Registration
June 1, 2020

Standard Registration
Starts June 2, 2020

Deadline for submission to ITAX conference volume
September 15, 2020 (TBC)

*All dates in Greenwich Mean Time

Call for Papers: Symposium on Property Taxation

16 Nov 2020 – 17 Nov 2020, Center for Policy Research, Maxwell School, Syracuse University (Syracuse, NY, USA 13244)

The Center for Policy Research, located within the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, is hosting a one and a half day symposium on November 16 – 17, 2020. The Center has all necessary facilities and staff support for this event. Additionally, the Sheraton University Hotel is within walking distance to the venue, and the City of Syracuse is easily accessible by air, via a transfer, from anywhere in the world.

ACCOMMODATIONS: Speakers and one presenter from each selected paper will have airfare reimbursed (economy class), hotel (2 nights), and meals. Other participants should expect to cover the cost of their own travel expenses.

SUBMISSION & GUIDELINES: The symposium will focus on the real property tax (RPT) and its administration broadly defined. We welcome paper topics that include, but are not limited to: (1) RPT design and its optimality; (2) RPT incidence, efficiency, adequacy, enforcement, and compliance; (3) size of taxing jurisdictions and cycle of reassessment; (4) exemptions and deductions; (5) successes and failures in using this tax; and (6) lessons to inform policy making and reform practice.

Please submit your PAPER or ABSTRACT (if paper is not yet completed), by June 1, 2020 via email attachment to Laura Walsh at Acceptance notifications will be sent by July 1, 2020. The full or revised papers are due November 1, 2020 for circulation among participants of the symposium.

RATIONALES AND SIGNIFICANCE OF THE SYMPOSIUM: The real property tax has been one of the several major taxes in the tax system of most developed countries. Many developing countries and transitional economies also levy this tax. Some countries that have not yet adopted this tax, like China, are considering adopting it. Property tax revenue is among the most important revenue sources for most local governments in the United States. In many European countries, local governments rely heavily on other taxes and intergovernmental transfers, but the property tax remains an essential part of their revenue portfolio.

The real property tax is typically administered by local governments, with wide variation across countries, even across states in the same country. The decentralized nature in the administration of this local tax, in tandem with political and other factors, has staged various scenarios that end up eroding the equity, efficiency, feasibility, transparency, and adequacy of the tax. To some extent, this tax has become inequitable, inefficient, nontransparent, and inadequate so that it can no longer serve its due roles as expected or desired. The call and demand for reform of administration of this tax is real and imminent worldwide.

There exists a rich and increasing academic literature on various aspects of the real property tax; however, this literature has been thin on the administration of this tax, especially in recent decades, such that academia is detached from the practice of this important locus of local public finance. This symposium is a collective effort of several research institutions in the United States, Europe, and Asia that are traditionally strongholds of public finance, as a new round of concerted exploration of the most pressing issues with the real property tax, especially the administration of this tax.

The Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University has a long tradition as a stronghold in state and local public finance, with its departments of economics, political science, and public administration (policy) as the tripod in the study of this broad area. The Center for Policy Research in the Maxwell School already has a strong team of established researchers in this area.

This symposium will bring scholars from several major countries (and multiple states inside the United States) for international and comparative studies. The symposium focuses on the examination of problems in various aspects of the real property tax, its evolving role in local public finance, and, in particular, issues in its administration. At the theoretical level, the symposium aims to distill theories via empirical analyses to generate evidence on optimal reassessment cycle, optimal size of property assessing units, appropriate scope and manner of exemptions that balance equity with efficiency, and relevant policies under tax reform.

FURTHER INFORMATION: For specific questions, please contact Professor Yilin Hou, Center for Policy Research, Syracuse University, at or 1-315-443-9072.

The dates of this symposium (November 16-17, 2020) have been strategically selected to ensure that participants of the annual National Tax Association conference (November 19-21, Denver, CO, USA) are able to easily attend both events in one trip.

November 15 (Sunday): Afternoon arrival of participants and check in at hotel
November 16 (Monday): Full day; conference with dinner in the evening
November 17 (Tuesday): Half day; departure in the afternoon/evening

Fundamentals of Public Budgeting and Finance

That is the title of a recent e-book through Springer-Link by Aman Khan (Texas Tech University). If you are at a university with the right subscription, you might be able to access it for free, but is $25 otherwise.

If I was teaching an undergraduate public budgeting and finance introductory course, I would likely adopt it as the main textbook.  It is budget heavy by design and therefore lighter on the tax side, but it has a chapter on evaluating a tax system and another that covers the different means of raising revenue through alternative instruments. Depending on the course and its role in the curriculum, I might also find it light on federalism and accounting, but those are hardly necessary additions so I think it is overall an excellent textbook for undergraduates that is easy on student budgets.

Disclaimer: I came across the book by Google Scholar recommendation. There was no contact with the author or publisher, and so no undue influence for the preparation of this post.

The Intra-Conservative Debate over the Child Tax Credit

There is a bipartisan bill proposed by Mitt Romney and Michael Bennet being billed as “basic income plan for kids.” Here is Vox coverage, but I also found interesting this National Review article by Robert Verbruggen outlining the broader debate over its merits merits of the child tax credit. To summarize the debate over the child tax credit:

  1. Traditional economic conservatives see it as an overstep of government, and think it should be abandoned.
  2. More status-quo conservatives want it retained, particularly as long as it is partially refunded to resemble a tax break instead of welfare.
  3. Less status-quo oriented conservatives want it made to be fully refundable and paid for by consolidating other welfare spending, particularly those that generate “benefit cliff’s.”
  4. Others want it made it fully refundable, as it is a pro-family enabling device, and lay some blame on FDR for the reason the US doesn’t already have this.

The second point contained this idea, which was one I had not heard before:

It used to be that parents would pay to raise children and then reap the rewards when their kids cared for them in old age; now, thanks to Social Security and Medicare, parents still pay to raise kids, but in retirement they rely collectively on the income of the next generation. We’ve socialized the benefits of having children but not the costs, and the child credit helps to compensate parents for some of the costs. Put bluntly, raising children should count as a tax payment, and should be subtracted from the taxes parents otherwise owe.

Call For Proposals: Public Finance Challenges in the New Decade

The University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy is sponsoring and hosting a spring miniconference in College Park this April. This is part of the loose consortium of schools that have hosted in recent springs dating back to 2015 (University of Illinois-Chicago, Georgia State University’s Andrew Young School, Indiana University’s O’Neill School of Public & Environmental Affairs, and University of Illinois-Chicago’s College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs). The quality of presentations and discussion is very high, people really bring their best work. The conference is April 24-25, 2020 and proposals are due February 1, 2020. You can find the Call for Proposals below the line.

University of Maryland School of Public Policy Header Logo


Public Finance Challenges in the New Decade
April 24-25, 2020
University of Maryland School of Public Policy
College Park, Maryland

The start of a new decade gives us an opportunity to look ahead and reflect on the challenges that will face us as a field, as a nation, and globally, between now and 2030. What challenges will characterize field of public finance and governments of the world in the 2020’s? Governments will continue to struggle with how to finance the delivery of public services, the appropriate role of different levels of government in delivering those services, fulfilling past promises, and evaluating how well we are meeting the demands of citizens. In addition, public service, and therefore public finance, will be increasingly defined by interactions between the various sectors—public, private and nonprofit—and innovative mechanisms that involve all of these sectors. Data and methods available for evaluation and forecasting will continue to advance as will technology for the public sector. We invite papers that focus on the broad challenges theme in the areas of public budgeting, taxation, municipal securities, public expenditure evaluation, fiscal federalism, financial management, organizational structure, and more.

We seek new, forward-looking papers that will encourage and push the debate about public finance in this new decade. We invite proposals for papers that examine these and other policy issues at the national and subnational levels in domestic and international contexts utilizing a variety of empirical techniques. Proposals will be reviewed and competitively selected.

Possible areas include, but are not limited to:

  • Behavioral responses to taxation
  • Use of big data and data analytics for public budgeting and finance
  • Innovative methodologies in public sector evaluation and performance management
  • Sorting out responsibilities among levels of government
  • Municipal securities
  • Contingent liabilities, such as pensions
  • Nontraditional means of service delivery

Deadline for proposals: February 1, 2020

Proposals should include title, abstract, authors, and contact information for the submitting authors. Abstracts should not be longer than two pages. Accepted participants will be notified by March 1, 2020.

Participants may be asked to serve as discussants. Travel reimbursements will be available to cover the cost of travel (up to $600) and hotel expenses for one author per paper. Meals will be provided.

Proposals should be submitted to Dr. Philip Joyce at

Location & Schedule
The conference will take place at the College Park Marriott on the campus of the University of Maryland, College Park. The conference will begin at 8:00 am on Friday, April 24th and will end at 1:30 pm on Saturday, April 25th. Registration, Hotel and Travel Information will be available in March 2020.

University of Maryland School of Public Policy
Situated in the nation’s capital at the crossroads where local and global issues intersect and where decision-makers address the world’s most pressing challenges, the University of Maryland School of Public Policy prepares students for careers advancing the public good across sectors. The School recently broke ground on a new building at the heart of campus, enabling our fast-growing community to continue impacting fields ranging from leadership and public management to sustainability to philanthropy and nonprofit. Drawing upon the strengths of a top-tier research university, the School of Public Policy brings cutting-edge science and technology developments into the public domain.

ABFM 2019 Curro Award Winner: Yoon Jung Choi (Syracuse)

Yoon-Jung Choi (Syracuse University – Maxwell School) is this year’s Michael Curro Student Paper Award Winner for her paper “Property Tax Interaction Among Overlapping Local Jurisdictions: Quasi-Experimental Evidence from School Bond Referenda.” She will be presenting on Friday at 4-5:15. John Yinger is her faculty adviser.

Interesting FYI: I worked with Choi in her last year of her MPA here at SPEA on a readings course. As part of that I had her do a meta-literature review of the two most recent years (2015-2016 at the time) of the Journal of Public Economics, National Tax Journal, and Public Budgeting & Finance. The database of articles is here and the her “three journal summary” that explains the themes and differences of the journals is here. It is quite good and I try to remember to share it periodically with the public finance doctoral students.