Hidden Rules of Race are Embedded in the New Tax Law

By Darrick Hamilton & Michael Linden

Roosevelt Institute

May 23, 2018


The federal tax code is one of the most powerful tools of economic policymaking, housing critical rules that govern our economy. As such, it is also home to a set of hidden racial rules that, through intention or neglect, provide opportunities to some communities and create barriers for others.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, also known as the Trump tax law, was a substantial rewrite of the tax code. Far from addressing, fixing, or improving the hidden rules of the tax code that disadvantage people of color, the new law strengthened some of these rules and even added new ones.

In an issue brief, Roosevelt Fellows Darrick Hamilton and Michael Linden explain the four major ways that the new tax law will harm people of color: by exacerbating disparities in both income and wealth; through expected increases in local fines and fees; and from an enormous revenue loss that will undermine the public sector—and millions of black workers along with it.

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