Citizens for Tax Justice
|Motto||Working for a Fair and Sustainable Tax System|
|Type||Public Policy Think Tank|
|Headquarters||1616 P Street, NW Suite 200, Washington, DC 20036|
Citizens for Tax Justice is a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy and lobbying think tank founded in 1979. CTJ’s work focuses primarily on federal tax policy. Its stated mission is to “give ordinary people a greater voice in the development of tax laws.” CTJ’s goals include: “fair taxes for middle and low-income families; requiring the wealthy to pay their fair share; closing corporate tax loopholes; adequately funding important government services; reducing the federal debt; [and promoting] taxation that minimizes distortion of economic markets.”
CTJ is generally considered to be a center-left organization, but its research has also been cited by Republican politicians (including President Ronald Reagan) and right-wing tax reform organizations when favorable to their policies. The organization's tax report, Form 990, states its purpose is "to promote social welfare reform of state and local tax structures." The organization's president, Wayne Cox, is Executive Director of Minnesota Citizens for Tax Justice.
Many of the reports written by Citizens for Tax Justice rely on analyses produced by the "ITEP Microsimulation Tax Model", which is housed at its partner organization, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP). Revenue and distributional estimates of current federal tax policies, as well as of policies proposed by members of Congress, the President, presidential nominees, or CTJ itself are the topic of a large number of the organization’s reports.
CTJ has also published a significant number of reports analyzing the financial statements of large corporations in order to calculate their effective corporate income tax rates. The first of those reports was released in 1984.
History and Influence
CTJ was founded in 1979 in response to the growing anti-tax movement’s recent passage of California’s Proposition 13. Shortly thereafter, CTJ’s sister organization, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), was created to provide CTJ with additional analytical expertise.
CTJ’s reports are often cited in the media and by lawmakers. Additionally, CTJ analysts have frequently testified before Congress and other bodies, such as President Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. CTJ has been described as “one of the principal sources of information for liberal Democrats on matters of tax policy.”
1986 Tax Reform Act
CTJ’s most visible impact on U.S. tax policy was its role in bringing about the enactment of the Tax Reform Act of 1986. In addition to cutting tax rates, the Tax Reform Act of 1986 also simplified and broadened the tax base, and eliminated numerous tax shelters. CTJ described the Act as “path-breaking federal legislation that curbed tax shelters for corporations and the rich and cut taxes for poor and middle-income families.” The Tax Foundation, a group generally considered to be on the opposite end of the political spectrum from CTJ, has described the Act as “one of the most significant pieces of legislation ever passed.”
CTJ’s impact on the debate came in the form of four reports detailing the magnitude of corporate tax avoidance, and making the case for comprehensive corporate tax reform: Corporate Income Taxes in the Reagan Years (1984), Corporate Taxpayers & Corporate Freeloaders (1985), Money for Nothing: The Failure of Corporate Tax Incentives, 1981-1984 (1986), and 130 Reasons Why We Need Tax Reform (1986). These reports revealed, among other things, that 128 large corporations had paid nothing in corporate income taxes in at least one of the previous three years.
In his memoirs, Treasury Secretary Donald Regan recalls referencing a finding made in one of CTJ’s reports when he explained to President Reagan that “your secretary paid more in federal taxes last year than … General Electric … Boeing, General Dynamics, and 57 other big corporations.” After admitting that “I didn’t realize things had gotten that far out of line”, President Reagan threw his support behind the push to close corporate loopholes.
McClatchy Newspapers has said that CTJ’s work “sparked national outrage that helped pave the way for The Tax Reform Act of 1986.” The Washington Post described the release of these reports as a “key turning point” in the process of enacting the Act.
University of Connecticut law professor Richard Pomp described the CTJ studies as having had “a profound effect on educating the public and on shaping public opinion, unlike previous studies relying on only statistical aggregates”, and declared that “one of the major catalysts for the corporate reforms made by the Tax Reform Act of 1986 was the disclosure by Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ) of the nominal amount of income tax paid by some of the largest corporations in the country.”
Furthermore, in a 1988 article in the Washington Monthly proclaiming CTJ to be one of the “best public interest groups” in the nation, the magazine described CTJ’s work as having “helped set the stage for one of the most dramatic defeats that special interest groups have ever suffered: the 1986 overhaul of the federal tax code.”
2001 Bush Tax Cut Debate
In 2001, with Republicans in control of the White House and both houses of Congress, both the Treasury Department and the Joint Committee on Taxation were encouraged not to produce distributional tables explaining the impact of President Bush’s proposed tax cuts. Republicans were reported to have “never liked that kind of measurement, saying it contributed to class warfare.” As a result, data released by CTJ, produced using the ITEP Microsimulation Tax Model, was the primary source of information on which opponents of the tax cuts had to rely.
The New York Times described CTJ’s Director, Bob McIntyre, as having “no doubt … exerted more influence on the tax debate this year than any lobbyist in town.” In a similar vein, Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota said “I don’t know what we’d do without Bob McIntyre. The agencies of government that are supposed to provide this information don’t, and the only way we can get it is from Bob." Despite CTJ’s role in stoking the opposition to the 2001 cuts, the plan did eventually pass.
2009 Health Care Debate
During the 2009 debates over President Obama’s proposed health care reform package, CTJ produced a series of reports detailing the revenue and distributional effects of a number of potential options for financing those reforms.
CTJ often analyzes the distributional and revenue impact of tax policy proposals made by candidates for public office. Those estimates have been frequently cited by the media, as well as by candidates themselves.
CTJ’s funding comes from donations by individuals, labor unions, and other organizations.
- Center for American Progress
- Center for Economic and Policy Research
- Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
- Economic Policy Institute
- Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy
- Tax Foundation
- Tax Policy Center
- "About CTJ". CTJ. 2011.
- "Location". CTJ. 2011.
- Stevenson, Richard W. (April 16, 2005). "Bush Tax Return Shows an Income of $784,219". The New York Times.
- Firestone, David (May 30, 2003). "Battle on Child Tax Credit Intensifies in the Capital". The New York Times.
- "Background". CTJ. 2011.
- "Would ending corporate tax breaks make dent in deficit?". McClatchy DC. 2011.
- "ITEP Microsimulation Tax Model". ITEP. 2011.
- "CTJ Reports". CTJ. 2011.
- "CTJ Digest". CTJ. 2011.
- "Digest Sign Up". CTJ. 2011.
- Taxation Hesitation. Mother Jones. 1989.
- "A Measure of Media Bias". UCLA. 2004.
- Andrews, Edmund L. (May 8, 2004). "Big Gap Found in Taxation Of Wages and Investments". NYT.
- "http://www.ctj.org/taxjusticedigest/archive/2011/05/ctj_stats_help_senator_make_hi.php". CTJ. 2011.
- Rosenbaum, David E. (May 21, 2001). "PUBLIC LIVES; Little-Known Crusader Plays a Big Role in Tax Debate". NYT.
- "Regarding Proposed New Tax Subsidies for Capital Gains and Corporate Profits Designed to Gut the Tax Reform Act of 1986;". CTJ. 1995.
- "Concerning Waste, Fraud, [and] Abuse in Federal Mandatory Programs;". CTJ. 2003.
- "Concerning "On Banking Secrecy Practices and Wealthy American Taxpayers;". CTJ. 2009.
- "Regarding Business Tax Subsidies Administered by the Internal Revenue Service;". CTJ. 2011.
- "Regarding Tax Fairness and Economic Growth;". CTJ. 2009.
- "Testimony Before The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform;". CTJ. 2003.
- "In Search of America Pages 67-69, 86;". Hyperion. 2002.
- "To the President’s Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform;". CTJ. 2005.
- McKinnon, John D. (May 26, 2011). "New Fight Brews Over Corporate Taxes;". WSJ.
- "Old About CTJ;". CTJ. 2000.
- "Twenty Years Later: The Tax Reform Act of 1986;". CTJ. 2006.
- Regan, Donald T. For the Record: From Wall Street to Washington. St. Martin’s Press. January 1989. ISBN 0-312-91518-7
- Nasar, Sylvia (June 6, 1988). "REGAN, REAGAN, AND REALITY;". Fortune.
- "The Tax Reform Act of 1986;". Wikipedia. 2011.
- Pomp, Richard D. “State Tax Expenditure Budgets – And Beyond.” In The Unfinished Agenda for State Tax Reform. Ed. Steven D. Gold. National Conference of State Legislatures. November, 1988. pp. 74.
- "The best and worst of public interest groups; from lifting up the poor to shaking down the elderly.". Washington Monthly. 201988.
- Rosenbaum, David E. (March 4, 2001). "Doing the Math on Bush's Tax Cut". NYT.
- "House Surcharge Proposal Unlikely to Have Noticeable Impact on Small Businesses". CTJ. 2009.
- "Three Proposals to Pay for Health Care Reform". CTJ. 2009.
- "House Proposal to Apply a Graduated Surcharge to Incomes Over $350,000". CTJ. 2009.
- "Make the Medicare Tax a More Progressive Tax that Wealthy Investors Pay Just Like Everyone Else". CTJ. 2009.
- "President Obama’s Proposal to Limit Itemized Deductions for High-Income Families". CTJ. 2009.
- "Progressive Revenue Options to Fund Health Care Reform". CTJ. 2009.
- "Senate Mulls Medicare Tax on Capital Gains to Fund Health Plan". Bloomberg. July 9, 2009.
- "How Health Care Was Reformed (and Financed Partly with a Progressive Tax)". CTJ. 2010.
- "Elections". CTJ. 2011.
- "Don't Repeat The 1980s Mistake". CNN. 1996.
- Rodrigue, George (September 22, 1996). "Read Fine Print In `Child Credit' Tax Plans". Dallas Morning News.
- "Most GOP presidential contenders pledge not to go negative". CNN. 2000. Archived from the original on December 8, 2004.
- "How Obama's tax plans would 'spread the wealth around'". Christian Science Monitor. 2008.
- "Bush Supports Tax Credits for Dow Chemical, Genentech". Bloomberg. February 9, 2004.