The University of Wisconsin Press

Political Science


The Politics and Development of the Federal Income Tax
John F. Witte

“Quite simply, no book compares with Witte’s careful study of the U.S. federal income tax. It is by far the best political treatment of the nation’s most important tax. The book is a very useful amalgam of three elements: a look at the theoretical issues (including the political theories) of taxation; an exceptionally thorough historical study of income tax development; and a unique analysis of who wins and who loses with the many special tax breaks included in the tax code…. Witte’s study is an important contribution to public finance and political science.”—Choice

No program of the federal government has elicited so many calls for reform—and none has resisted reform efforts so consistently—as the income tax. In this book, John Witte provides the most detailed, clearly stated, accurate, and up-to-date exposition of the history of the federal income tax, while offering an acute analysis of the political factors that have shaped it over more than a century. This work is essential source material for all policy makers and policy analysts, and a lucid and comprehensive survey for students in public policy, public administration, budget and tax policy, political economy, and contemporary political theory. In short, Witte explains in graphic detail why the income tax remains in virtual chaos, and just what the prospects are of future reform.

Witte’s analysis is based in the context of incremental/pluralist policy-making theory. He begins by outlining and analyzing incremental theory and income tax policy, and then surveys past and present theories in income taxation. The broad center of the book consists of a detailed legislative and political history of the development of the income tax from the Civil War through the Reagan policies of the 1980s. Witte then offers an analysis of the growth, distribution, and politics of approximately one hundred tax expenditure provisions, and he concludes with an appraisal of recorded public opinions on income tax issues between 1948 and 1979.

Witte’s book, original in concept and boldly stated, will be essential reading not only for tax scholars, students, and professionals, but for all who are concerned with the form of American democracy and the political life of the nation.

John F. Witte is professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He is the author of The Market Approach to Education: An Analysis of America's First Voucher Program and Choice and Control in American Education.

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Income Tax Forms on a red background

August 1986

LC: 84-040506 HJ
464 pp.   5 7/8 x 9

The cloth edition for this title, 978-0-299-10200-9, is out of print.

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ISBN 978-0-299-10204-3
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