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Future Hindsight is a weekly podcast that aims to spark civic engagement through in-depth conversations with citizen changemakers. American democracy is a living, breathing mechanism whose well-being deserves to be cultivated and protected, and now more than ever, the need to be an engaged citizen is critical. We explore how each of us has the power to shape our society and fulfill our shared civic responsibility.

Dec 9, 2021

Tax Policy is Where It Starts

What do our tax dollars really go towards? The truth is, so much of it is invisible. Tax dollars go towards helping homeowners through mortgage deductions or keeping prices low on your water bill. The money we spend on taxes has the power to shape our social contract, but it’s not always spent correctly. By focusing on tax policy first, we can control which programs and policies are funded and which are not. In this way, taxes are at the root of social change.

Tax Fairness

The topic of tax fairness is shrouded in the myth that America’s tax system is progressive. We tend to only talk about federal income taxes, which do in fact increase as you make more income. But we fail to recognize the unfairness of other taxes, like property and sales tax. For example, middle class families pay the same sales tax as the ultra-wealthy, and even renters end up paying property taxes at a rate equivalent to billionaires. When you look at the full scope of the tax burden, it really falls most heavily on middle- and lower-income families.

Taxing Billionaires

Billionaires don't have to pay taxes on their capital investments. They pay taxes when they sell their assets. However, billionaires are rarely in a position where they need to sell, thanks to loopholes in the system. For example, Jeff Bezos, who owns billions in Amazon stock, can take out huge loans at low interest rates, using his stock as collateral, avoiding any taxable event like selling stock. To effectively tax the ultra-wealthy, these loopholes can be closed by taxing annual gains of public stock whether they’ve been sold or not, much like a property tax assessment.


Sarah Christopherson is the Legislative and Policy Director of Americans for Tax Fairness. She leads ATF’s advocacy efforts with Congress and coordinates the coalition’s policy work. Prior to joining ATF, she served as the Policy Advocacy Director for the National Women’s Health Network for five years, responsible for directing their advocacy efforts on federal health reform, among other issues. Christopherson also worked for Congress from 2005 to 2015, including serving as the Washington Director/Legislative Director to Congresswoman Niki Tsongas (D-MA). There she directed the Member’s legislative agenda and led her tax, financial services, consumer protection, and federal budget portfolio. Christopherson has bachelor’s degrees in political science and history from Arizona State University and a master’s degree in foreign policy from George Washington University.

You can follow Sarah on Twitter at @sarahcgchris.