President Biden Adopts Professor Bearer-Friend's Tax Proposal

January 29, 2021

Jeremy Bearer-Friend

A proposal by Professor Jeremy Bearer-Friend to disaggregate tax data by race and ethnicity has been included in President Joe Biden’s Executive Order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government. Section 9 of the Executive Order, which was issued on the first day of the Biden presidency, establishes an interagency data working group for promoting equity in government action and includes the appointment of the Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy to the team.

In his 2018 Tax Law Review article, “Should the IRS Know Your Race? The Challenge of Colorblind Tax Data,” Professor Bearer-Friend documents the century-long practice of colorblindness in federal tax data and argues that tax data should include race and ethnicity in order to meet goals of transparency, democracy, and equality. He also proposes a number of alternatives to the current colorblind tax regime that do not require adding questions about race or ethnicity to Form 1040.

“President Biden’s Day One Executive Order will finally shed a light on how the burdens and benefits of our tax code are distributed. Access to these data will impact how Congress writes the tax code and how the IRS enforces it,” said Professor Bearer-Friend.

Professor Bearer-Friend joined GW Law after serving as Acting Assistant Professor of Tax Law at New York University. His research views taxpaying as a civic act that shapes a citizen’s relationship to government. Last year, he was appointed to a three-year term on the editorial board of The Tax Lawyer, a peer-reviewed tax law journal published by the ABA Tax Section

He also co-authored a paper, “Taxation and the Law-and-Political-Economy Project,” which was selected by the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) Tax Section through blind review for its 2021 New Voices in Tax panel. In 2021, his research on poll taxes was also shortlisted for a U.S. Scholar Fulbright Award to the United Kingdom.

Prior to academia, Professor Bearer-Friend was Tax Counsel to Senator Elizabeth Warren, leading the Senator’s work on a wide range of tax matters, He remains actively engaged with public policy and regularly provides tax law guidance to journalists, think tanks, presidential campaigns, and congressional staff.