Tag Archives: vat

Value Added Tax? Bad Idea

Today’s Daily Caller has an article by Wayne Crews and I making the case against the VAT, which is becoming a popular idea in this age of trillion-dollar deficits. Our main points:

-It would require roughly doubling the size of the IRS. Enough said

-VATs are untransparent. Sales taxes show up on receipts. VATs don’t. Knowing how much we are taxed is a fundamental right that preserves our ability to challenge excess government in a constitutional republic. A VAT would take that away.

-VATs increase over time. At least they have in 20 of 29 OECD countries that have VATs.

-VATs are prone to special-interest abuse. Politically incorrect goods are easily hit with punitive rates. In Denmark, people pay roughly triple sticker price for cars, for example.

Basic Irony

From yesterday’s WSJ.com Political Diary (subscription required):

The same day President Obama called for another $50 billion to $100 billion stimulus plan (and concomitant increase in the deficit), he also appointed the chairmen of his Deficit Reduction Commission. It says a lot about Washington that almost no one got the irony of those paired announcements.

Indeed it does. Fortunately, the Commission’s job is pretty simple. There are only two ways to cut the deficit. One is to cut spending. The other is to raise taxes. Cutting spending is the right thing to do. But it is also politically difficult. There is a lot of fat to trim from the budget. But government has little incentive to put itself on a diet.

That’s why the Commission is expected to recommend a tax increase, probably in the form of a VAT. A prestigious bipartisan Commission can provide the political cover that Congress and the administration need to avoid the embarrassment of backtracking on their policies.

Wayne Crews and I recently warned why a VAT is a bad idea in Investors’ Business Daily. Hopefully some of the arguments will find themselves into the debate.

Against a Value Added Tax

Over at Investor’s Business Daily, Wayne Crews and I make the case against a Value Added Tax. Policy makers have been flirting with the idea as a way to reduce the $1,400,000,000,000 budget deficit.

We argue that a VAT is:

-Complex; it would require roughly doubling the size of the IRS.

-Untransparent; most VATs don’t show up on receipts the way sales taxes do. Taxpayers are clueless as to how much tax they actually pay.

-Vulnerable to special-interest tinkering; politically incorrect goods are routinely penalized with higher rates. Politically favored goods are granted exemptions.

-Prone to increases; 20 out of 29 OECD countries with a VAT have increased their rates since implementing a VAT.

A point we didn’t make is that VATs affect industrial organization. VATs are applied at each stage of the production process. That gives companies an incentive to reduce the number of taxable steps. That means more vertical integration than would otherwise occur. This can decrease the efficiency of the manufacturing process. Which means higher prices and fewer goods. Plus the tax.