Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2000


Lawmakers and their staffs, in drafting tax legislation, often resemble Prince Charming looking for Cinderella with that glass slipper in hand -- rather than start from scratch and draft a completely new tax provision. It is frequently easier, faster, and more reassuring to taxpayers and tax practitioners to use an existing statute or approach and simply amend it slightly to make it fit the need of the new provision. However, problems can arise from this approach.

In the original Grimm Brothers' version of the Cinderella story, for example, the wicked stepsisters were each so anxious to be the chosen one that they mutilated their feet to make the Prince's glass slipper fit. In a similar fashion, existing tax laws designed to serve one purpose are occasionally bent to the breaking point to serve quite different ones, or are used as the model for tax provisions intended to satisfy other needs. The payroll tax—FICA or Social Security tax—is an example of a tax model that may have been stretched beyond all recognition in the quite different context of self-employment. The central theme of this essay is that the shoe, in fact, may not fit at all, requiring some thinking about a different approach to a payroll tax equivalent for the self-employed.