Cheryl D. Block

Document Type



Recently, Congress utilized a new gimmick in its budget legislative process. Under "pay as you go" (PAYGO) budget rules, Congress had used the repeal of installment sale reporting for certain taxpayers to "pay for" revenue-losing provisions in its budget deal with the administration; the following year, however, Congress "repealed the repeal" of the installment sale provision, enabling new spending and tax cuts not included in the earlier budget deal and not paid for with appropriate offsets. Although such gimmicks are not uncommon, the installment sale episode reflected pathologies engrained at the intersection of the current federal budget and tax legislative processes. This Article examines those pathologies, their origins, and their effects on federal tax and budget policy. The Article then reviews the installment sale episode as a breach of Congress's contract with itself, emblematic of the pathologies and the harm they cause to genuine policy considerations. As Congress considers the future of its budget offset rules, this Article also suggests reforms that would re-emphasize the democracy-oriented goals of the budget legislative process.