LISTEN: Professor Joel Slemrod Discusses New Book, History of Tax Oddities
The history of taxation might not seem a rich source of fascinating anecdotes, but a Ross School of Business professor has been collecting them for years — and he’s assembled enough for a book
Joel Slemrod — the Paul W. McCracken Collegiate Professor of Business Economics and faculty director of the Office of Tax Policy Research — recently appeared on the Tax Notes Talk podcast with Michael Keen, his co-author, to discuss their new book, Rebellion, Rascals, and Revenue: Tax Follies and Wisdom Through the Ages.
On the podcast, the authors share a few of their favorite items from the book, including the story of a bridge toll imposed in Curacao in 1888. The toll was levied only on people wearing shoes, in an attempt to specifically tax the wealthy. But it ended up having the opposite effect, with poor people wearing shoes to disguise their status and rich people going barefoot to avoid the toll.
“One of the objectives of our book is to make it interesting and fascinating. As people are fascinated, they can learn some lessons about what separates tax wisdom from tax folly,” Slemrod notes on the podcast.
“Tax is starting to creep back into the front pages every day,” Slemrod says. “It's an important issue, and the key issues are not always easy to digest. We think and hope that people who are interested in public policy will come to the book and both laugh and learn.”