How the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center Engages with Presidential Campaigns and Evaluates Candidates’ Tax Proposals
Presidential campaigns are an important opportunity to educate the public on the economic and fiscal implications of the candidates’ tax policy platforms. In an effort to inform that debate, TPC has evaluated presidential campaign tax proposals since 2008. While campaigns are highly partisan, TPC is strictly nonpartisan.
TPC will adhere to the following guidelines in an effort to be transparent about how we communicate with campaigns and how we perform and disseminate our analysis.
- We are non-partisan and anyone who joins a candidate’s campaign as an adviser is excluded from our team of analysts (although we will consult with campaigns, as explained below).
- We do not endorse presidential candidates or their proposals.
- We expect to evaluate the major political party candidates’ tax proposals, but we may not score every proposal. If a campaign has not provided sufficient information, we will say so. If we can only address parts of a proposal, we will note specifically what we have left out. We are unlikely to have the resources to evaluate all candidates’ proposals during the primary season. We will allocate resources to evaluate those proposals that are specific enough to analyze and have the most general interest or raise novel or important policy issues.
- Campaign proposals lack important details for various reasons. Before we analyze a campaign’s plan, we will ask the campaign for clarification and let it know our working assumptions – and give it a deadline to respond. If we do not receive timely answers from the campaign, we will use our working assumptions. If the campaign provides clarification, we will reflect that in our analysis. We will include our questions and working assumptions in an appendix to our analysis and indicate any corrections/revisions supplied by the campaign. If the campaign chooses not to clarify and multiple outcomes are consistent its proposals, we will try to provide information about the kinds of choices needed to transform campaign rhetoric into actual policy and the range of resulting outcomes. If campaigns subsequently provide more details that would materially affect an analysis, we will try to update it.
- We will ask prominent policy analysts reflecting a range of ideological perspectives to review our draft analyses. It will help us avoid any language or assumptions that might be perceived as partisan.
- We will send our contact in the campaign an embargoed draft of our analysis of its proposal shortly before publishing it on taxpolicycenter.org. We don’t plan to give campaigns an advance copy of our analysis of a competing candidate’s plan except insofar as we are evaluating competing candidates’ plans in the same document. In that case, we would plan to simultaneously release our analysis to all the campaigns whose plans are subject to the analysis.
- We may provide embargoed copies of analyses to the press, generally at the same time as we supply it to campaigns.
- We will be explicit about the baselines we use, and we will strive for consistency in baselines in comparing various candidates’ proposals.
- Although the TPC model does not currently incorporate macroeconomic effects in its standard estimates (dynamic scoring) we will attempt to evaluate the effect of proposals on economic performance and possible revenue feedbacks when they could be significant (dynamic analysis). We may also provide qualitative analysis of how these macroeconomic responses could affect our revenue and distributional estimates as well as quantitative estimates when feasible.
- In addition to these formal analyses, we will also occasionally comment on a candidate’s proposal in a TaxVox blog post when appropriate (e.g. a tax idea we’ve previously analyzed, etc.). TaxVox posts are nonpartisan and subject to strict internal review procedures, but are not subject to external review.
 In addition, TPC’s politically diverse Advisory Board provides ongoing input and advice throughout the year on topics such as model development, projects, priorities, and fundraising. Some Advisory Board members also serve as external reviewers for TPC projects and publications.