Think You’re Smarter Than A Tax Policy Professional? – Guest Column Mike Klein (GA Public Policy Foundation)

August 18, 2012

tci32670 Think Youre Smarter Than A Tax Policy Professional?   Guest Column Mike Klein (GA Public Policy Foundation)Reprinted with permission from GPPF

Are you frustrated with state taxation policies and absolutely convinced you’ve got better ideas? Step right up, folks, and take a gander coming soon at Tax Reform: The Game, a new interactive web-based game that uses real-world Georgia data as its backdrop. Plug in the numbers, change them around however you like and you will be able to design your own Georgia tax reform plan.

Tax Reform: The Game is the brainchild of Georgia Tech economics professor Christine Ries who says her internet game will make possible “tax reform of the people, by the people and for the people.” Ries began to think about how to make real taxation data more accessible to the public after her service on the state’s 2010 Special Council on Tax Reform. All too often, she said, it was simply too hard to obtain real data that was necessary for tax policy calculations.

“People who have never before been involved in political issues are intensely interested in becoming more involved and informed,” said Ries, who is a Georgia Public Policy Foundation senior fellow. “When I was on the Tax Reform Council surprising numbers of Georgians from all walks of life were asking me if they could run their own calculations. When we were able to get tax information that preserves everyone’s privacy we were able to make a game that would be available and useful for those engaged citizens.”

Christine Ries, Economics Professor, Georgia Tech
Ries will unveil Tax Reform: The Game during an Americans for Prosperity Foundation Georgia conference on Saturday August 25 in Kennesaw. “Taxpayers deserve as much information as possible about how government collects and uses their money,” Ries said. “This game will put some really important tools at their fingertips. Now we can really have ‘no tax reform without representation.’” The game will be available to anyone on a website that will be announced.

Players will be able to create plans that raise taxes, lower taxes or keep tax revenues the same. The game will determine how the player’s changes would affect overall state revenue. Call that phase one which is what Ries plans to unveil at the conference. Phase two will allow the player to demonstrate the impact of those proposed tax rates on the various income groups in the state – lower income, middle income, and higher income. Phase three will allow the ‘tax reformer’ to look specifically at a single family or taxpayer.

Ries explained, “For instance, how would a particular reform affect the taxes paid by a family earning $75,000 per year, filing jointly with two children, itemized deductions of $30,000 per year and they live in DeKalb County? The game will tell them how their state income and sales taxes would change.”

Bringing this level of Georgia taxation data forward into a game environment is unprecedented. Ries said she is in discussions about how to implement Tax Reform: The Game in other states. “Most of my fellow policy wonks that I hang around with worry about the right economic plan and they just assume that if you have the right economic plan it will get adopted,” Ries said. “We’re learning a lot more about how you need to factor in the right political and community concerns.”

The Americans for Prosperity Foundation Georgia conference will be held in the Murray Arts Center at Mt. Paran Christian School. Scheduled speakers include Wall Street Journal editorial board columnist Stephen Moore and several Georgia-based speakers who will discuss economics, education and energy policies. Click here for additional information and to register.

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