Tuesday, January 1, 2008

What if April 15th Was Just Another Day?

What if, each payday, your paycheck was bigger because you got to keep more of what you earned? What would you do with that money? In Washington, there's a lot of talk about cutting taxes, but the money never seems to materialize in our pay checks.

Congressman Ron Paul has a practical, common-sense approach to fiscal responsibility that will benefit all Americans. Here's a statement from Congressman Paul back on October 16, 2006"

"In Washington we hear a lot of talk about tax cuts, but the rhetoric does not always match the reality. For most Americans, taxes remain too complex and too high. After the tumult of the upcoming midterm election, it is imperative that Congress gets back to basics and addresses our terrible tax system.

Lower taxes benefit all Americans by increasing economic growth and encouraging wealth creation. I’m in favor of cutting everybody’s taxes – rich, poor, and otherwise. Whether a tax cut reduces a single mother’s payroll taxes by forty dollars a month, or allows a business owner to save thousands in capital gains and hire more employees, the net effect is beneficial. Both either spend, save, or invest the extra dollars, which helps all of us more than if those dollars were sent to the black hole known as the federal Treasury.

Many conservatives have touted the Fair Tax proposal as an issue in the upcoming election. A pure consumption tax like the Fair Tax would be better than the current system only if we truly did away with the income tax by repealing the 16th amendment. Otherwise, we could end up with both the income tax and a national sales tax. A consumption tax also provides more transparency and less complexity. But the real issue is total spending by government, not tax reform. In other words, why change the tax structure if spending stays the same? Once we accept that the federal government needs $2.7 trillion from us-- and more each year-- the only question left is from whom it will be collected. Until the federal government is held to its proper constitutionally limited functions, tax reform will remain a mirage.

I apply a very simple test to any proposal to overhaul the tax code: Does it reduce or eliminate an existing tax? If not, then it amounts to nothing more than a political shell game that pits taxpayers against each other in a lobbying scramble to make sure the other guy pays. True tax reform is as simple as cutting or eliminating taxes. No studies, panels, committees, or hearings are needed. When reform proposals seem complicated, they almost certainly don’t cut taxes. Congress should simply focus on cutting existing taxes and reducing spending, instead of complicated overhauls of the system.

The question to ask yourself is this: What would I do with the money withheld from my paycheck each month? The answer is simple: you would spend, save, or invest the money, all of which do more for the economy and society than sending it to Washington. Thanks to the deception of income tax withholding, however, some people actually look forward to tax time and a much-anticipated refund. Imagine how quickly Americans would demand lower taxes and spending if they had to write the federal government a check each month!

Tax relief is important, but members of Congress need to back up tax cuts with spending cuts- and they need to vote NO on every wasteful appropriations bill until we start over with the federal budget. True fiscal conservatism combines both low taxes and low spending.

Cutting spending would not be hard if Congress simply showed the political will to tackle the problem. I’m not talking about cutting the rate at which government spending grows, but cutting the actual amount of money spent by the federal government in a single year.

If federal spending grows at 5% rather than 7% one year, that’s hardly a great achievement on the part of Congress. The current federal budget of around $2.7 trillion could be cut to $2.5 trillion quite easily. The vast majority of Americans would not even notice. But we must begin chipping away at the federal budget if we hope to address the underlying problem of government debt."

1 Comment:

Ian said...

Economist Dale Jorgensen, Harvard University, was commissioned to find out what portion of current prices were represented by costs for complying with the federal income tax code (i.e., embedded tax costs). He concluded that 22% (average) of every retail dollar, spent by consumers, constituted a price-embedded tax. Thus, in addition to individual income tax and FICA withholding, individuals are unwittingly paying these unseen, embedded business tax costs with every purchase of a new product, or service.

Under FairTax, prices would fall, due to removal of embedded business tax-related costs. Concurrently, wages may rise due to a mix of factors, including reversion of withheld pay (or some portion thereof) to employees, advancement opportunities due to business expansion resulting from retained earnings, and/or increased demand for labor accompanying increased competition (from that expansion). Where profits (or wages) appear lucrative, competition will move into the market space, driving out excesses (immediately present after FairTax is enacted), arriving at new "market-adjusted" prices.

For FairTax to constitute 23% of new transaction cost (i.e., "market-adjusted" price plus FairTax), a mark-up of 29.9% (tax exclusive rate) on the new "market-adjusted" price is necessary. (Before balking, consider what we're paying now if income tax rates are converted to tax-exclusive sales tax rates on net income instead of percentage of gross income. The following figures can be compared to the 29.9% FairTax mark-up: Fifteen pct bracket = 17.6%, twenty-five pct bracket = 33.3%, twenty-eight pct bracket = 38.9% (! really), and thirty-five pct bracket = 53.8% (! that's how bad it is).

In order to make FairTax a progressive consumption tax (such as that recently called for by Warren Buffett), all citizen-families are simply sent a monthly consumption [tax] allowance, called a "prebate." This prebate is intended to reimburse taxes on necessities for every citizen family without need for record-keeping or reporting. Moreover, the direct payment bypasses the creation of a tax code specifying exempted products and services around which a lobbyist industry could grow. The amount is variable, based on family size, and is equal to the FairTax rate on poverty-level spending, as defined by the Dept. of Commerce. At present, a family of one would receive ~$200/month, a family of four, ~$500/month. Thus, the "effective" FairTax rate paid by citizens, will *never* equal the full 23%. Of course, U.S. visitors (legal, and illegal) will pay the full FairTax when they purchase anything new, at retail (used are not taxed again). Under FairTax, working families will have their whole paychecks (minus any state or local income tax withholding) plus their monthly family prebate.

Additionally, citizens will no longer have to spend the average 50 hours per year preparing their federal tax returns. Having more monthly income may result in using credit less, and saving more. Larger savings will make it easier to purchase a home, at a lower interest rate and monthly payment. (Thus, mortgage deductions are no longer applicable when income is not the basis for taxation).

But is FairTax actually "fairer"? To provide substantive answers, Prof.'s Kotlikoff and Rapson (10/06) have concluded,

"...the FairTax imposes much lower average taxes on working-age households than does the current system. The FairTax broadens the tax base from what is now primarily a system of labor income taxation to a system that taxes, albeit indirectly, both labor income and existing wealth. By including existing wealth in the effective tax base, much of which is owned by rich and middle-class elderly households, the FairTax is able to tax labor income at a lower effective rate and, thereby, lower the average lifetime tax rates facing working-age Americans.

"Consider, as an example, a single household age 30 earning $50,000. The household’s average tax rate under the current system is 21.1 percent. It’s 13.5 percent under the FairTax. Since the FairTax would preserve the purchasing power of Social Security benefits and also provide a tax rebate, older low-income workers who will live primarily or exclusively on Social Security would be better off. As an example, the average remaining lifetime tax rate for an age 60 married couple with $20,000 of earnings falls from its current value of 7.2 percent to -11.0 percent under the FairTax. As another example, compare the current 24.0 percent remaining lifetime average tax rate of a married age 45 couple with $100,000 in earnings to the 14.7 percent rate that arises under the FairTax."

Further, per Jokischa and Kotlikoff (2005) ...

"...once one moves to generations postdating the baby boomers there are positive welfare gains for all income groups in each cohort. Under a 23 percent FairTax policy, the poorest members of the generation born in 1990 enjoy a 13.5 percent welfare gain. Their middle-class and rich contemporaries experience 5 and 2 percent welfare gains, respectively. The welfare gains are largest for future generations. Take the cohort born in 2030. The poorest members of this cohort enjoy a huge 26 percent improvement in their well-being. For middle class members of this birth group, there's a 12 percent welfare gain. And for the richest members of the group, the gain is 5 percent."

The current income-based tax system is also more expensive to run, because of the manner in which the tax code is gamed by politicians and lobbyists. Politicians realize great power, and attract constituencies for support, by granting tax favors (i.e., credits, deductions, exemptions) through lobbyists. Fully, fifty-three percent of Washington lobbyists are there because of the tax code! The tax code is continually changing, making it more complex - more difficult to understand. And, the salaries and costs of tax lawyers and lobbyists end up in higher prices of the products and services we buy. Additionally, the time and money required to keep records, file returns, report for audits, retain accounting and legal help, pay IRS penalties and interest, is time and money lost for other productive, or recreational, activities. Depriving us of the use of withheld wages increases our expenses through zero-interest withholding, inflation, return preparation time, and interest paid on credit cards and loans that otherwise may not have been necessary. Summed up, the cost of tax compliance, nationally, has been estimated to range anywhere from $265 billion to twice that amount, depending on the extent to which tax-avoidance consultation is sought and utilized. These expenses constitute a substantial hidden tax which is incomprehensible to the average working American. And the FairTax gets rid of all of it for most Americans, and most of it for business owners.

We, as FairTax advocates, believe that government should serve We, the People, with a fair tax system that will not enable politicians to pit poor against rich (creating barriers to achieve wealth, adding tax penalty to the sacrifices made for personal success). Nor do we want politicians to continue using business as a tool to hide taxes from consumers, often villifying business, which discourages entrepreneuship, personal achievement, economic growth. Liberty and happiness depends on restoring the fruits of labor to those who produce them. We believe that the tax function should align with economic growth, not against it, that government should be paid for in the same manner as working Americans - when, and because, something is sold!

As things stand at present, the system primarily benefits politicans who cater to special interests through lobbyists who game the tax code. The politician seeks to capture them as constituent voting blocks, dependent on continued syphoning of taxpayer dollars to their members' benefit. This is increasingly repugnant to the average working American who often finds it difficult to meet the needs of his, or her, own family in an environment where federal and state business income taxes substantially contribute to trade inequities resulting in the loss of American jobs! Thus, the Sovereign are continually degraded by features of Congress's income tax policy. The most rapidly-growing needs-based "special interest" group has become the Citizens! You see? Congress has nearly all the power; and We, the People, have become We, the Serfs, robbed and enslaved. Getting the federal government's hands out of our family paychecks is the single most important reason to replace the income tax with a consumption tax, the FairTax.

Many of us have joined FairTax.org in order to build a national movement to free ourselves, our family pocketbooks, and our businesses from confiscation of income, and punishment of productivity. And this we say to our federal representatives,

"Either scrap the code and enact the FairTax, or we intend on replacing you with someone who will."

(May reproduce in whole or part. - Ian)