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Leonard Burman

Leonard Burman

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Staff Support:

Katrina Fiacchi


Leonard Burman

Professor Emeritus, Public Administration and International Affairs Department

Institute Fellow, Urban Institute


Highest degree earned

Ph.D., University of Minnesota, 1985


Len Burman is professor of public administration and international affairs and an Institute Fellow at the Urban Institute. He co-founded the Tax Policy Center, a joint project of the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution in 2002. Burman was deputy assistant secretary for tax analysis at the Department of the Treasury from 1998 to 2000 and senior analyst at the Congressional Budget Office from 1988 to 1997.

Additionally, he is past-president of the National Tax Association (NTA) and 2016 recipient of the NTA’s Davie-Davis Award for Public Service. In 2019 Len was inducted as a fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration.

Burman is the co-author with Joel Slemrod of "Taxes in America: What Everyone Needs to Know," author of "The Labyrinth of Capital Gains Tax Policy: A Guide for the Perplexed" and co-editor of several books. He is often invited to testify before Congress and has written for scholarly journals, as well as media outlets such as The Washington Post, New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal. Len received a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Minnesota in 1985.

Areas of Expertise

Federal tax policy, budget policy, tax expenditures, the individual alternative minimum tax, the changing role of taxation in social policy

Selected Publications

Selected Papers

“Is U.S. Corporate Income Double-Taxed?” with Kimberly A. Clausing and Lydia Austin. National Tax Journal. 2017, 70 (3), 675–706.

“Economic and Distributional Effects of Tax Expenditure Limits,” with Eric Toder, Daniel Berger, and Jeffrey Rohaly, in Alan J. Auerbach and Kent Smetters, eds. The Economics of Tax Policy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017. 

“An Analysis of the House GOP Tax Plan,” with James R. Nunns, Benjamin R. Page, Jeffrey Rohaly, and Joseph Rosenberg, Columbia Journal of Tax Law, 2017, 8:257-294.

“The US Presidential Candidates and the Economy.” Intereconomics, September/October 2016, 51 (5): 295-296.

“The Effects of the Taxation of Social Security Benefits on Older Workers’ Income and Claiming Decisions." Norma B. Coe, Kevin Pierce, and Liu Tian, National Tax Journal, Vol. 67, No. 2 (June, 2014), pp. 459–486.

Financial Transaction Taxes in Theory and Practice." William G. Gale, Sarah Gault, Bryan Kim, Jim Nunns, and Steven Rosenthal, National Tax Journal, (March 2016), pp. 171–216.

Tax Compliance Costs and Business Formation,” with John Iselin, Kauffman Foundation: New Entrepreneurial Growth Agenda, Section 7: Policy, February 2016.

“The Tax Reform That Just Won’t Die (and Shouldn’t).” Milken Institute Review, Cover Story (Second Quarter, 2014), pp.17-23.

“Pathways to Tax Reform Revisited.” Public Finance Review, Vol. 41, No. 6 (November, 2013), pp. 755-790.

“Taxes and Inequality.” Tax Law Review, Vol. 66, No. 44 (Summer, 2013), pp. 563-592.

“The Perverse Public and Private Finances of Long-Term Care." Nancy Folbre and Douglas Wolf (Editors), Universal Coverage of Long Term Care in the U.S.: Can we get There from Here?, Russell Sage Foundation (September, 2012), pp. 216-234.

“Tax Expenditures, the Size and Efficiency of Government, and Implications for Budget Reform." Marvin Phaup and Jeffrey Brown (Editor), Tax Policy and the Economy, Vol. 26 (2012), pp. 93-124.

"Countdown to Catastrophe." Milken Institute Review, (April, 2010), pp. 16-25.

 “Taxing Capital Gains in Australia: Assessment and Recommendations." Chris Evans and Richard Krever (Editors), Australian Business Tax Reform in Retrospect and Prospect, Sydney: Thomson Reuters (2009). 

“A Blueprint for Tax Reform and Health Reform.” Virginia Tax Review, Vol. 28 (2009), pp. 287-323.

“How Big are Total Individual Tax Expenditures and Who Benefits From Them?” Eric Toder and Christopher Geissler, Tax Policy Center Discussion Paper, No. 31 (December, 2008).

“The Alternative Minimum Tax: Assault on the Middle Class.” Milken Review, Cover Story (October 2007).

“A Proposal to Finance Long-Term Care Services through Medicare with an Income Tax Surcharge." Rich Johnson, Georgetown University Long-Term Care Financing Project (June 22, 2007). 

“The Tax Reform Act of 2010.” Tax Notes (October 23, 2006).

“Roth Conversions as Revenue Raisers: Smoke and Mirrors.” Tax Notes (May 11, 2006).

“A Preliminary Evaluation of the Tax Reform Panel’s Report." William G. Gale, Tax Notes (December 5, 2005).

“Suppose they took the AM out of the AMT?” David Weiner, Tax Policy Center Discussion, No. 25 (August, 2005).

“The Distributional Consequences of Federal Assistance for Higher Education: The Intersection of Tax and Spending Programs." Elaine Maag, Peter Orszag, Jeffrey Rohaly, and John O’Hare, Tax Policy Center Discussion, No. 26 (August, 2005).

“Tax Credits for Health Insurance." Jonathan Gruber, Tax Policy Center Issues and Options, No. 11 (June, 2005).

“Options to Reform the Estate Tax." William G. Gale and Jeff Rohaly, Tax Policy Center Issues and Options, No. 10 (March, 2005) (Reprinted in Tax Notes, April 18, 2005).

“The Bank Debit Tax In Colombia." María Angelica Arbeláez and Sandra Zuluaga, in Richard M. Bird, James M. Poterba and Joel Slemrod (Editors), Fiscal Reform in Colombia, Cambridge: MIT Press (2005).

“Low-Income Housing Credit." Alastair McFarlane, in Joseph J. Cordes, Robert D. Ebel, and Jane G. Gravelle (Editors), The Encyclopedia of Taxation and Tax Policy, 2nd edition, Washington, DC: The Urban Institute Press (2005).

“Distributional Effects of Defined Contribution Plans and Individual Retirement Arrangements." William G. Gale, Matthew Hall, and Peter R. Orszag, National Tax Journal (September, 2004).

“Is the Tax Expenditure Concept Still Relevant?” National Tax Journal (September, 2003).

“Taxing Capital Gains in New Zealand." David White, New Zealand Journal of Taxation Law and Policy (September, 2003).

“My Weekend with Nick and Adam." Joel Slemrod, Milken Institute Review (August 1, 2003), .

“Taxing Capital Income Once.” Tax Notes (February 3, 2003).

“The Estate Tax is Down But Not Out." William G. Gale, Tax Policy Issues and Options, No. 2 (December, 2001) (Reprinted in Tax Notes, February 25, 2002).

“First, Do No Harm: Designing Tax Incentives for Health Insurance." Amelia Gruber, National Tax Journal (September, 2001), pp. 473-493.

“The Taxation of Retirement Saving: Choosing Between Front-Loaded and Back-Loaded Options." William Gale and David Weiner, National Tax Journal (September, 2001), pp.  689-702.

“A Golden Opportunity to Simplify the Tax System." William G. Gale, Brookings Institution Policy Brief (April, 2001).

“Capital Gains Taxation and Tax Avoidance: New Evidence From Panel Data." Alan Auerbach and Jonathan Siegel, in Joel Slemrod (Editor), Does Atlas Shrug?: The Economic Consequences of Taxing the RichRussell Sage Foundation and Harvard University Press (2000).

“Measuring Permanent Responses to Capital Gains Tax Changes in Panel Data." William C. Randolph, American Economic Review (September, 1994).


“Financing Health Care Reform.” Senate Committee on Finance (May 12, 2009).

“Tax Code and Health Insurance Coverage.” House Committee on the Budget (October 18, 2007).

“Tax Fairness, the 2001-2006 Tax Cuts, and the AMT.” House Committee on Ways and Means (September 6, 2007).

“Fairness in Tax Policy.” Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, House Appropriations Committee (March 5, 2007).

“Dynamic Analysis and Scoring.” House Committee on the Budget (September 13, 2006).

“The Impact of Tax Reform on Low- and Middle-Income Households.” House Committee on Ways and Means (June 8, 2005).

“Tax Evasion, IRS Priorities, and EITC Precertification.” House Committee on Ways and Means (July 17, 2003).


"Taxes in America: What Everyone Needs to Know." Joel Slemrod, Oxford University Press (2012).

"Using Tax Breaks to Reform Health Insurance: Pitfalls and Promises." Henry J. Aaron (Coeditor), Brookings Institution Press (2008).

"Taxing Capital Income." Henry J. Aaron, and C. Eugene Steuerle (Coeditors), Urban Institute Press (2007).

Marketplace Commentaries

 “Experiment to Get Best Stimulus Results,” (January 26, 2009).

“USDA Not Allowing Free Markets to Decide about Mad Cow Disease Testing,” (July 2, 2004).

“Vote for Me!” (May 11, 2004).

Op-eds and Other Commentaries 

“Catastrophic Budget Failure,” Washington Times (July 14, 2009).

“Give up a Benefit, Gain Jobs,” Washington Post (July 9, 2009).

“Different Way to Pay for Health Reform,” Washington Times (May 19, 2009).

“Make the Tax Cuts Work,” New York Times (January 23, 2008).

“End the Break on Capital Gains,” Washington Post (July 30, 2007).

“Give the ‘Lucky Duckies’ a Helping Hand, Too,” Newsday (June 6, 2003).

“Congress Morphs an ‘Itty-Bitty’ Tax Cut Into a Budget Buster." Peter Orszag, Los Angeles Times (May 20, 2003).

“Tax Complexity and Low-Income People.” NPR’s Morning Edition (April 16, 2001).