During the pandemic, IU Professor Bridget Stomberg, Weimer Faculty Fellow, started listening to podcasts. One day she was chatting with her friend, Lisa De Simone, an accounting professor at the University of Texas at Austin, whom she met in graduate school.
“We’re both tax researchers and refer to ourselves as tax nerds as we love all things taxes,” says Stomberg. “We began kicking around the idea of starting a podcast that would share our love of taxes with a broader community.”
After researching how to do it, in spring 2021, the pair launched their tax podcast “Taxes for the Masses,” releasing their first episode on July 4.
“We thought, ‘What better way to celebrate the United States than to talk about taxes?’” says Stomberg.
They focus their topics on helping a broad audience understand tax topics in the media. Last year numerous tax headlines made the news with President Biden’s Build Back Better Act that was calling for some big tax changes.
“A lot of times people can be intimidated about reading an article if they don’t have the background or don’t understand the terminology,” says Stomberg. “We wanted to take a fun,
lighthearted but informative approach.”
They let the headlines and the environment dictate what they discuss.
“We use something that has cropped up in the media as a jumping-off point,” says Stomberg. For instance, last fall they talked a lot about President Biden’s proposed global minimum tax.
There was also a leak of IRS data that was targeting higher wealth individuals so they did an episode on that.
“Elon Musk was getting kicked around for exercising some stock options. He and Elizabeth Warren got into a Twitter war about his tax liability on those option exercises so we did an episode on what stock options are and how they’re taxed,” says Stomberg.
Their 20- to 25-minute podcasts, which air every other week, are broken up into three segments. In the first segment they overview what they’ll discuss and why. The middle segment is the nitty-gritty technical detail. The last segment is what Stomberg calls “the good, the bad, and the ugly.” It’s where they offer a balanced view of what’s happening by looking at it from different angles.
“If we’re talking about tax policy, we’ll try to find the nugget of good in what’s being proposed but not be overly glowing. We’ll also play devil’s advocate and offer some hesitation of why people might not be thrilled about a tax policy that’s coming up,” says Stomberg. “That last segment is where we let our perspectives in, but we always do it in a balanced and fair way.”
Sometimes they’ll invite in guest speakers. For instance, they’ve had an IU law professor talk about wealth taxes. They also had someone discuss cryptocurrency.
Stomberg maintains that hosting a tax podcast has made her a better educator.
“We all have a million things going on, especially during the teaching semester so I appreciate that this podcast has given me a huge incentive to stay on top of what’s happening in the world and pushed me to invest the time to take a deeper dive into articles,” she says. “Now I can have really informed conversations with my students because instead of just showing them an article and stopping there, I know what the academic research is. I’ve looked at four articles and know the different perspectives. I know what the Democrats and the
Republicans are saying. It allows me to have more information and, as a result, deliver a better experience to my students.”