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Tax Policy


Ryan budget reportWhich path leads to prosperity?

Author: Institute for Wisconsin's Future
Date: June 2012

This 4 page report contrasts the austerity budget proposed by Congressman Paul Ryan with the investing in public programs. It also projects how each of the 72 Wisconsin counties would fare under the Ryan budget as compared with the current law.

4 page report (PDF)


Tax reform options coverTax Reform Options for Wisconsin

Author: Institute for Wisconsin's Future
Date: April 2012

This 4 page fact sheet gives an overview of why Wisconsin is facing a financial shortfall and options for increasing revenue.

4 page catalog of tax options(PDF)


Inversting in RevenueInvesting in Revenue
How Wisconsin can profit by using the Minnesota model for closing the tax gap

(Second edition)

Author: Institute for Wisconsin's Future
Date: February 2012

This report shows there are more than $900 million in taxes legally owed to the state butnot collected. There are also several hundred million more in taxes that should be paid but haven’t been because of either deliberate or accidental misfiling or failures to file a tax return. One simple solution to Wisconsin’s revenue crunch is to invest in staffing needed for the state’s Department of Revenue (DOR) to access this large pool of uncollected tax dollars. Read how an investment of $12.5 million in resources for DOR can  generate $100 million in additional revenue during this biennium. This is a net gain of $87.5 million that could be used to prevent more cuts to schools, health care and other programs.

Online Version:

» Full Report (PDF)


Tax Catalog coverCatalog of Tax Reform Options for Wisconsin

Author: Institute for Wisconsin's Future
Date: April 2011

A report by the Institute for Wisconsin’s Future (IWF) offers a range of alternatives for increasing state revenue. IWF’s new Catalog of Tax Reform Options for Wisconsin looks at changes throughout the state tax system.

Enacting every option would generate $4 billion in yearly revenue, far more than needed. Enacting a subset of them would offset harsh cuts to schools, municipalities, counties and safety net programs. The catalog is a guide for a balanced approach to addressing the state deficit.

Online Version:

» Full Report (PDF)
» Short version (PDF)


Cover of Too Many LoopholesToo Many Loopholes; How to turn property tax exemptions into revenue for local government

Author: Institute for Wisconsin's Future
Date: January 2011

This study from IWF outlines the numerous property tax exemptions that drain revenue from communities and tilt the weight of tax responsibility onto homeowners and small businesses. The report also offers solutions that increase funding for schools, cities and counties while leveling the tax paying field to include major institutions that currently use services but pay nothing.  

Online Version:

» Full Report (PDF)


Unintended Consequences

Unintended Consequences: The economic impact of cutting public sector wages and benefits

Author: Institute for Wisconsin's Future
Date: February 2011

This study shows that the proposed cut in public worker compensation would result in the loss of 9,000 private sector jobs and $600 million a year in economic production in the private sector. It would eliminate $42 million in property taxes or shift them to other taxpayers and increase the state unemployment rate. Every county in the state would suffer with reduced economic activity and less local revenue.

Online Version:

» Full Report (PDF)


Harley-Davidson: It’s not about state revenue policy

Author: Institute for Wisconsin's Future
Date: April 2010

The highly-publicized Harley-Davidson situation has nothing to do with state tax policy, despite the efforts of many conservative commentators to link the two.
 This is clear from facts about Harley’s taxes contained in a short IWF report, Harley-Davidson: It’s not about state revenue policy.
(online version)


Boeing Cash Cow cover

Boeing’s Cash Cow:  A corporate strategy’s impact on middle-class America

Author: Institute for Wisconsin's Future
Date: April 2010

This report describes how Boeing relentlessly squeezes state and local governments for massive tax breaks while simultaneously demanding expensive public infrastructure and low-wage workers. Boeing literally treats state and local governments as “cash cows” they can milk for tax breaks, low-cost financing and a host of other free or inexpensive services. The long-term effect of this corporate strategy is to eliminate the middle-class jobs that have sustained America’s prosperity

Online Version:

» Full Report (PDF)


Billion Dollar Tax Gap

Wisconsin’s Billion-Dollar Tax Gap—How uncollected taxes can help fill the state’s budget hole

Author: Institute for Wisconsin's Future
Date: April 2010

Wisconsin loses $1.2 billion every year due to the “Tax Gap,” the difference between what is legally owed by taxpayers and what is actually paid.  This equals one out of every $10 collected by the state as general purpose revenue. The tax gap is important because the loss of over one billion dollars a year means less state aid to cities, towns, counties and schools. The reduced state aid results in program cuts that raise class size, slow firefighter response time and deliver fewer meals on wheels to the elderly. At the same time, property taxes go up to make up for lost state dollars.

Online Version:

» Full Report (PDF)


Cover of TARP reportSize Matters: How Federal TARP funds helped small Wisconsin banks succeed during the economic crisis

Author:Jack Norman with Jamal Hagler
Date: December 2009

Wisconsin’s small, community banks—with a little help from the federal government—have played a valuable role in helping stabilize the state economy during this deep recession, according to a report from the Institute for Wisconsin’s Future.

While some of Wisconsin’s largest banks continue to struggle for survival, its nearly three hundred community banks have increased lending while maintaining fiscal health, according to IWF’s analysis of bank data.

Online Version:

» Full Report (PDF)


The Twisted Saga of Mercury Marine

Author: Institute for Wisconsin's Future
Date: October 2009

Mercury Marine was the most dramatic corporate story in Wisconsin in 2009. The corporation pressured workers in Fond du Lac to accept large concessions. In addition, Fond du Lac County and City gave the firm $53 million in incentive packages – covered by taxpayers. The state is offering more.  Why did this crisis occur?

IWF’s report, The Twisted Saga of Mercury Marine, provides new disclosures about Mercury Marine (aka Brunswick Corporation), including the fact that its parent company, Brunswick Corporation, hasn’t paid a penny of state income tax during this entire decade.

Online Version:

» Full Report (PDF)


combined reportingCombined Reporting: How Closing Corporate Loopholes Benefits Wisconsin

Author: Institute for Wisconsin's Future
Date: February, 2009

The study documents, among other things, that states with combined reporting do much better at retaining manufacturing than do states without combined reporting. It also reports that most all of the state’s largest employers already comply with combined reporting in many other states, and have done so without abandoning their operations in those states. The points rebut the claim by combined reporting opponents that the tax reform would cost Wisconsin jobs.

Online Version:

» Full Report (PDF)


investing revenueInvesting in Revenue: How Wisconsin can profit by using the Minnesota model for closing the tax gap

Author: Institute for Wisconsin's Future
Date: January, 2009

Wisconsin could generate nearly $100 million a year by increasing tax-enforcement efforts in the Department of Revenue, according to this IWF report. A $25 million investment in tax-enforcement resources for the Department of Revenue (DOR) could return $200 million in additional revenue in the coming state budget 2007-’09 biennium, the report argues. That is $175 million that state budget makers would not have to find through spending cuts or tax increases when they address the state’s deficit.

Online Version:

» Full Report (PDF)


The Catalog of Tax Reform Options for Wisconsin

Author: Institute for Wisconsin's Future and Wisconsin Council on Children and Families
Date: November, 2008

This catalog includes a number of suggestions for bringing additional tax revenue to the state, to help protect essential public structures in a time of economic distress. No specific item is endorsed, but the report stresses that some combination of the recommended measures is necessary for a balanced approach to addressing the looming deficit while preserving vital public services and infrastructure.

Online Version:

» Full Report (PDF)


hospital taxesHospitable Taxes: How non-profit hospitals profit from our out-dated tax system

Author: Institute for Wisconsin's Future
Date: May, 2008

Wisconsin’s extensive roster of non-profit hospitals own at least six billion dollars worth of tax-exempt property that could be generating at least $117 million in property taxes yearly to help support local services, according to this IWF report.

Online Version:

» Full Report (PDF)


revenue gapWisconsin's Revenue Gap: An analysis of corporate tax avoidance

Author: Institute for Wisconsin's Future
Date: December, 2007

An IWF report that shows that Wisconsin lost $643 million in 2006 through corporate tax loopholes.

Online Version:

» Full Report (PDF)


corporate taxBroken Partnership
How Wisconsin’s Corporate Sector Underpays State and Local Taxes by $1 Billion

Author: Jack Norman, Ph.D. (IWF)
Date: April 11, 2007

An IWF report explaining how the business sector underpays taxes by over $1 billion.

Online Version:

» Full Report (PDF)

(available online only)


buyer bewareBuyer Beware: Low-Income Homeowners Penalized Under the Wisconsin Tax System – Policy implications of the Wisconsin Tax Incidence Study

Author: Jack Norman, Ph.D. (IWF)
Date: March 2005

Wisconsin’s allegedly progressive tax structure is a myth. And low-income married homeowners have the highest tax burden in the state.Those are two of the important results buried in the recent Wisconsin Tax Incidence Report, the state’s detailed analysis of who actually bears the burden of paying taxes. Mainstream media gave only cursory coverage to the report, but IWF now has a short overview of its main results.

Online Version:

» Full Report (PDF)

(available online only)


tax hell hoax“Tax Hell” Hoax: Why spending caps on state and local government are wrong for Wisconsin

Author: Jack Norman, Ph.D. (IWF)
Date: January 2005

A new report skewers the argument that Wisconsin is such a “tax hell” that we must adopt strict new restrictions on state and local government spending.The image of Wisconsin as a “tax hell” has been cultivated by conservatives to create an appearance of legitimacy for proposed limits on government spending, such as the so-called Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights (also known as TABOR). When one looks carefully at the facts, however, there is no tax hell to be found.

Online Version:

» Full Report (PDF)

Order Print Copies (Full Report available)


iwfSome Facts About Property Taxes in Milwaukee

Author: Jack Norman, Ph.D. (IWF)
Date: November 2003

Did you know that the property tax burden on City of Milwaukee taxpayers has remained stable in recent years, and taxpayers now are paying a smaller percentage of their income in city property taxes than 20 years ago? This brief report offers conclusions based on tax and income data obtained from the City of Milwaukee and the U.S. Census Bureau. (2 pp.)

Online Version:

» Full Report (PDF)

(available online only)


iwfTax Funding for Private School Alternatives: The Financial Impact on Milwaukee Public Schools and Taxpayers

Author: Thomas Moore, Ph.D. (IWF)
Date: October 1998

This report finds that the Milwaukee Public Schools lose over $22 million in state aid under the current funding system for voucher and charter school programs. (14 pp.)

Order Print Copies (unavailable online)


state tax coverHas Wisconsin’s State Tax System Become Less Fair? Changes in the Distribution of Tax Burdens from 1974 to 1995

Authors: Andrew Reschovsky (La Follette Institute of Public Affairs and Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics/University of Wisconsin-Madison) & Chad Reuter (Wisconsin Department of Transportation)
Date: June 1997

This study reveals how major elements of our tax system have changed over the past couple of decades, and how each change affected the relative tax burden on non-elderly, married couple families. The authors note a number of ways that the state tax system could be made more progressive. (39 pp.)

Online Version:

» Full Report (PDF)
» Summary (PDF)

Order Print Copies (Full Report available)


wealthy windfallWindfall for the Wealthy: The Impact of 1995 Property Tax Relief Legislation on Wisconsin Households

Author: Bambi L. Statz (College of Business and Economics/School Business Management Program/University of Wisconsin-Whitewater)
Date: January 1997

This study examines 1995 school finance and property tax relief legislation on a district-by-district basis. The author finds that there is minimal tax relief for taxpayers in moderate or property-poor school districts and increased inequality in the state school financing structure, which benefits residents of wealthy school districts. (47 pp.)

Online Version:

» Summary (HTML)

Order Print Copies (Full Report available)


public, privatePublic Investment; Private Gain: A Review of Wisconsin's Corporate Tax Expenditure Budget from Fiscal Years 1974 to 1994

Author: Michael Rosen (Economics Department/Milwaukee Area Technical College)
Date: May 1995

This study shows that over the past 20 years, tax expenditures, often characterized as corporate welfare in Wisconsin, have grown at an astronomical rate while the state economy has grown only moderately. (19 pp.)

Online Version:

» Full Report (PDF)
» Summary (HTML)

Order Print Copies (Full Report available)