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Edward McCaffery

Edward McCaffery

Robert C. Packard Trustee Chair in Law and Professor of Law, Economics and Political Science

Telephone: (213) 740-2567
699 Exposition Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90089-0074 USA Room: 420
SSRN Author Page: Link

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Last Updated: December 27, 2017

Academic Paper Websites:

An internationally recognized expert in tax law, Edward McCaffery studies tax policy, tax structures, public finance theory including behavioral public finance, as well as property law and theory, intellectual property, and law and economics. He teaches Federal Income Taxation, Property, Intellectual Property, and Tax Law and Policy at USC.

McCaffery also teaches Corporate Taxation, Federal Income Taxation, Partnership Taxation, Property and a Tax Policy seminar.

McCaffery's scholarship has been widely cited by economists, government officials, journalists and policy analysts.  Among his publications are his recent books, Behavioral Public Finance (which McCaffery co-edited); Fair Not Flat:  How to Make the Tax System Better and Simpler, which proposes a tax system based on taxing spending rather than income; and Taxing Women, which examines how working women suffer under current tax laws. Other publications include Rethinking the Vote: The Politics and Prospects of American Election Reform, which he co-edited. Another book, A New Understanding of Property, will be published later this year. 

In an effort to reach a wider audience to explain basic concepts of tax and public finance, McCaffery created the People’s Tax Page and a series of animated cartoons featuring Sabrina the Unicorn.

McCaffery is a frequent commentator on a variety of tax issues in the news. To read his pieces that have been posted on CNN and The Huffington Post, please click on the links below:


Huffington Post

Recent commentary:

The tax bill's loopholes for the wealthy benefit Trump and Corker

Don’t Get Fooled Again! A Message on Tax Reform

Where is Door No. 2 on Tax Reform?

Trump's tax plan: Tricks for all, treats for a few

Tax Breaks for Multi-Millionaire Morons


His other writings include "Cognitive Theory and Tax," "Framing the Jury: Cognitive Perspectives on Pain and Suffering Awards" (with Daniel Kahneman and Matthew Spitzer), and "Slouching Towards Equality: Gender Discrimination, Market Efficiency, and Social Change."  Dean McCaffery has served as an official consultant to the Russian Federation to help design a comprehensive tax code.  Prior to joining the USC faculty, Professor McCaffery practiced law with a San Francisco law firm.

A summa cum laude graduate of Yale University, Professor McCaffery received his J.D. magna cum laude from Harvard Law School and a master's degree in economics from USC.  He served as a clerk to Chief Justice Robert N. Wilentz of the New Jersey Supreme Court and was an attorney with Titchell, Maltman, Mark, Bass, Ohleyer & Mishell before joining the USC Law faculty in 1989.  He held the Maurice Jones, Jr., Professorship in Law from 1998 to 2004 and has served as a visiting professor of law and economics at the California Institute of Technology since 1994.  He has chaired the USC Institute on Federal Taxation since 1997, and he found the USC-Caltech Center for the Study of Law and Politics and served as its director from 2000 to 2003.  He is an elected fellow of the American Law Institute (ALI) and the American College of Tax Counsel.  Professor McCaffery also is counsel to the Los Angeles office of Seyfarth Shaw LLP.

Works in Progress

  • "Explorations in the Theory of Optimal Consumption taxes," with James R. Hines, Jr., work in progress.


  • Fiscal Confusion: How Citizens Misunderstand Tax and Spending Programs, and Why it Matters, with Jon Baron (in progress).
  • A New Ownership Society (University of Chicago Press, forthcoming).
  • The Oxford Introductions to U.S. Law.  Income Tax Law:  Exploring the Capital-Labor Divide (Oxford University Press, 2012). - (www)
  • Behavioral Public Finance, co-editor, with Joel Slemrod (Russell Sage Press, 2006). - (www)
  • Rethinking the Vote: The Politics and Prospects of American Election Reform (edited with Ann N. Crigler and Marion R. Just) (Oxford University Press, 2004). - (www)
  • Fair Not Flat: How to Make the Tax System Better and Simpler (University of Chicago Press, 2002). - (www)
  • Taxing Women (1997) (Paperback edition with new preface, University of Chicago Press, 1999). - (www)

Articles and Book Chapters

  • “Taxing Wealth Seriously.” 70 Tax Law Review 305–376 (2017).
      - (SSRN) - (Hein) - (bepress)
  • “Distracted from Distraction by Distraction: Reimagining Estate Tax Reform,” Symposium: Tax Advice for the Second Obama Administration, 40 Pepperdine Law Review 1235 (2013).
  • “A Progressive’s Silver Linings Playbook: Repeal Stepped-Up Basis,” 138 Tax Notes 969 (2013).
  • “What Sports Can Teach Us: Lessons from the Luxury Tax,” 135 Tax Notes 1646 (2012).
  • "Where's the Sex in Fiscal Sociology? Taxation and Gender in Comparative Perspective," in Isaac Martin, Ajay K. Mehrota, and Monica Prasad, editors, Taxation in Perspective; Comparative and Historical Approaches to Fiscal Sociology, under submission. - (SSRN)
  • "Commentary on David Weisbach: Consumption Tax Implementation Methods," in Essays in Honor of David Bradford (Alan Auerbach and Daniel Shaviro, eds.) (forthcoming MIT Press). - (SSRN)
  • "Starving the Beast: The Psychology of Budget Deficits," with Jon Baron, in Fiscal Challenges: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Budget Policy (Elizabeth Garrett, Elizabeth Graddy and Howell Jackson, eds.) (MIT Press, 2009). - (SSRN)
  • "Sex Differences in the Acceptability of Discrimination" (with Timur Kuran) Political Research Quarterly (2008). - (SSRN)
  • "Behavioral Economics and Fundamental Tax Reform," in Fundamental Tax Reform: Issue, Choices, and Implications (John W. Diamond and George R. Zodrow, eds.) (MIT Press, 2008). - (SSRN)
  • "The Uneasy Case for Capital Taxation," in Taxation, Economic Prosperity, and Distributive Justice (Ellen Frankel Paul, Fred D. Miller, Jr., and Jeffrey Paul, eds.) (Cambridge University Press, 2006). - (SSRN)
  • "Toward an Agenda for Behavioral Public Finance," with Joel Slemrod, in Behavioral Public Finance (McCaffery and Slemrod, eds.) (Russell Sage Press, 2006). - (SSRN)
  • "Isolation Effects in Action: Uncovering Hidden Taxes" (with Jon Baron). 19 Journal of Behavioral Decision Making 1-14 (2006).
  • "Isolation Effects in Action: Uncovering Hidden Taxes" (with Jon Baron). 19 Journal of Behavioral Decision Making 1-14 (2006).
  • "The Uneasy Case for Capital Taxation." 23 Social Philosophy and Policy 166-14 (Summer 2006). - (SSRN)
  • "Shakedown at Gucci Gulch: The New Logic of Collective Action" (with Linda Cohen). 84 North Carolina Law Review 1159-1252 (2006). - (Hein)
  • "Thinking about Tax" (with Jon Baron). 12 Psychology, Public Policy & Law 106 (2006). - (SSRN)
  • "Masking Redistribution (and its Absence)," with Jon Baron, in Behavioral Public Finance (McCaffery and Joel Slemrod, eds.) (Russell Sage Press, 2006). - (SSRN)
  • "Three Views of Tax." 18 Canadian Journal of Law & Jurisprudence 153 (2005) (Special issue on tax, Edward J. McCaffery, guest editor). - (Hein)
  • "The Political Psychology of Redistirbution" (with Jon Baron). 52 UCLA Law Review 1745-1792 (2005). - (Hein)


San Gabriel Valley Tribune
January 15, 2019
Re: Thomas Lenz

Thomas Lenz commented on a Supreme Court ruling in favor of a Southern California truck driver, who argued that he was wrongfully forced into an arbitration agreement with a major carrier regarding a dispute over back wages. The unanimous decision could have long term impacts on the trucking industry, due to the fact that many companies hire workers as independent contractors, rather than employees. These independent contractors are often forced to settle through arbitration. This decision is "potentially impactful because so many people are labeled as independent contractors these days," said Lenz. "Many are misclassified, and the law could put them as employees, which could leave employers liable."


Dorothy S. Lund
November, 2018

"Sexual Harassment and Corporate Law", Berkeley Sustainable Business and Investment Forum Academic Roundtable, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, CA.

Daniel Klerman
November, 2018

“Contingent Fees and Access to Justice,” Faculty Colloquium, Notre Dame Law School, Notre Dame, IN.

Daniel Klerman
November, 2018

"Contingent Fees and Access to Justice" (with Eric Helland), Civil Procedure Workshop, Stanford Law School, Palo Alto, CA.