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Tax Hacks: Turning tax reform toward inclusive, sustainable prosperity (podcast)

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. called taxes “the price we pay for civilization.” In the latest Returns on Investment podcast, our regular roundtable goes even further: how can the tax code be used to nudge investments toward a future we’d all want to live in?

“You have a leadership that can’t think beyond ‘less taxes,’” says Imogen Rose-Smith, an investment fellow with the University of California. Which makes it all the more important to break out of such narrow confines with smart – dare we say bipartisan? – ideas.

A few ideas lofted on the podcast (even if they may not fly in the halls of Congress):

An infrastructure bank capitalized with some of the hundreds of billions of dollars in overseas corporate (mostly tech) profits.

Capital-gains tax deferral in return for low-income or inner-city community development investments, along the lines of the bipartisan Investing in Opportunity Act.

A robot tax or, conversely, a payroll tax cut to end the tax advantages that androids currently enjoy over humans.

A “clean tax cut” that reduces taxes on profits from clean energy, cutting the cost of capital and making low-carbon energy even cheaper.

How might we think beyond just cutting taxes based on some unproven – disproven? — notion that tax cuts drive economic growth and come up with a plan to…drive economic growth?

“We should reframe taxes as the investment we make in that commons in which we can then all prosper and thrive,” I offer, naively, in the discussion. “Your business grows up in a milieu that allows it to succeed, and you pay some of that forward so that can keep happening.”

For better or worse, we all have a long tax debate ahead. ImpactAlpha is on the lookout for ways to code the tax algorithm to output sustainable, inclusive prosperity. Send us your tax hacks at

Listen to past episodes of Returns on Investment and subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher or wherever you listen.

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