FT218: “The withholding tax is the greatest sin government ever perpetrated against the people.” —Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 18th, 2014

Fundamental Truth

The tariff was the funding source for most of government for about a century.

Once upon a time there was no federal income tax.  No estate tax.  No gift tax.  No payroll tax.  No capital gains tax.  And no corporate tax.  Taxes we take for granted today didn’t exist a century or so ago.  The country was a lot leaner back then.  People kept most of their money.  And took care of their families.

The federal government used to fund everything thing they did with tariffs.  A tax on imports.  Paid in ports.  As ships unloaded their goods.  Far away from most people.  And few people complained.  Our first excise tax was a different story.  A 7 cent per gallon of whiskey incited the Whiskey Rebellion.  After fighting the Revolutionary War to escape the oppressive taxation policies of Great Britain the people were in no mood for a new tax.  The whiskey tax lasted for about a decade.  Then they repealed it.

This left tariffs as the funding source for most of government for about a century.  But even that grew controversial.  And began the divisions between North and South.  The North protected its industry with protective tariffs on iron products, textiles (wool and cotton) and agricultural goods.  Shipped from the more industrialized Britain.  Which Britain responded to with tariffs of their own.  On cotton and other agricultural products grown in the South.  So the more the North protected their industries the more difficult it made for the South to export their raw goods.

In 1913 the progressives reintroduced the income tax and taxed the rich at 1%.

This wasn’t the only difference of opinion the North and South had.  And their differences resulted in war.  The North was able to win the American Civil War with its expansive industry.  But the war devastated the country.  Especially the South.  Which lost about 8.6% of her population.  To get an idea of what an 8.6% population decline is consider this.  That percentage of the current U.S. population is approximately 27 million.  So the losses the South suffered were similar to what the Soviets lost on the Eastern Front during World War II.

The South may have lost more of its population.  But the North suffered nearly the same number of war dead.  She just had a larger population to begin with.  To run all of that industry that won the war.  America’s first modern war was a costly one.  And one that President Lincoln had to turn to a new source of revenue.  The federal income tax.  Which taxed the rich.  At 3%.  Then it taxed the super rich at 5%.  But after they paid down the war debt they repealed America’s first income tax.

Then came the progressives.  And their taxes.  In 1913 they reintroduced an income tax.  Taxing the rich at 1%.  And the super rich at 6%.  To fund an expanding federal government.  Then came World War I.  To fund the war they increased the tax rate on the rich to 15%.  And the super rich at 77%.  The top marginal rate fell during the Twenties.   But FDR raised it back up during the Great Depression.  Until it reached 94%.  Where for every dollar they earned in and above the top income bracket they got to keep only 6 cents.

Few would be able to write a check on tax day to pay their full tax bill.

Then came all the other taxes.  And they just kept coming. Our tax bill grew to staggering amounts.  Which posed a problem for the taxing authorities.  As people just didn’t keep that kind of money around.  They worked.  They raised their families.  And what little they had left they put into the bank for their retirement.  Making it very difficult for them to pay their tax bill when it came.  Especially when it was 30% or more of their entire income.  So what to do?

The Founding Fathers created a nation out of a tax rebellion.  And then when that nation levied its first excise tax they got a little rebellion of their own.  Being opposed to taxes is part of the American DNA.  So the taxing authorities had to somehow hide the large amount of taxes we were paying.  That is, they had to reduce the transparency of these taxes.  For if you don’t know what you’re paying in taxes you really can’t get mad at paying high taxes.

Enter the withholding tax.  The greatest sin government ever perpetrated against the people.  For it takes our money before we ever get it.  Conditioning us to accept ‘net’ pay as the norm.  And making ‘gross’ pay some meaningless payroll jargon.  Because you can’t spend ‘gross’ pay.  You can only spend ‘net’ pay.  Which is the only pay people care about.  Making it not only easier to hide the soaring amount of taxes people were paying.  But because it’s so easy to hide what we’re paying they could raise those taxes to confiscatory heights.  Because we never have that money in our hands.  We never see it.  It goes from our employer to the taxing authorities.  Which is the only way they could collect these soaring amounts.  For few would be able to write a check on tax day to pay their full tax bill.  As people just don’t keep that kind of money around.

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The City of Detroit Bankruptcy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 22nd, 2013

Economics 101

There is nothing more Dangerous to a City’s Finances than a Shrinking Tax Base

The federal debt is at record levels.  Because federal spending is at record levels.  But those on the left say there’s nothing to worry about.  And try to expand federal spending further.  With more government benefits to hand out to the people.  And an ever growing federal bureaucracy.  Full of new jobs with generous pay and benefits.  All funded by the taxpayer.

Businesses in the private sector cannot operate like this.  Because businesses have to pay their costs with the things and/or services they sell.  That people willingly buy.  So there is a limit on the costs a business can incur.  But not so with government.  For the government has the power to tax.  To forcibly take more money from the people against their will.  Something businesses just can’t do.  And when that fails they can borrow money by issuing bonds.  Which are generally easy to sell.  Because governments have the power to tax.  All but guaranteeing that they will repay those bonds.  And when that’s not enough the federal government has one other benefit businesses don’t have.  They can print money.  Further guaranteeing that they will be able to redeem their bonds.  Making them that much easier to sell.

Government below the federal level, though, doesn’t have that last option.  So when they want to spend more money than they have they have no choice but to borrow.  And hope that their tax base doesn’t erode over time.  For there is nothing more dangerous to a city’s finances than a shrinking tax base.  Especially when the city has a huge and growing public sector.  Enjoying generous pay and benefits.  Especially pension and health care benefits for retirees.  Where promises made must be kept decades into the future.  During which time a lot of things can happen.  Such as that tax base shrinking.

Detroit’s Tax Base plummeted while the Size of the Public Sector did not for Government Never grows Smaller

This is the problem the City of Detroit has.  And it is why they filed the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.  Thanks to the automotive industry and World War II destroying most of the industrial economies of the world, Detroit became an economic power house.  And one of America’s grandest cities in the 1950s.  Paris of the Midwest they called Detroit.  Automotive capital of the world.  The Motor City.  The mecca of American manufacturing.  Having one of the richest middle class.  And one of the largest black middle classes.  Everyone was doing well in Detroit.  So the City of Detroit did the only rational thing a city could do with a swelling tax base.  They exploded the public sector.  All paid for with higher taxes.  Including a new city income tax.

But that growing public sector soon turned Detroit into a business unfriendly city.  With more red tape, regulatory costs and a corporate income tax.  And rising union demands during contract negotiations made it even less business friendly.  So businesses started leaving the city.  Taking their jobs with them.  And people followed.  Then the race riots hit in 1967.  Five days of unprecedented violence.  Thus beginning the great white flight from the city.  And the great population decline of the City of Detroit.  Culminating in the nation’s largest municipal bankruptcy in history.

At Detroit’s peak her population topped out at about 1.8 million people.  Today there are but 680,000 people remaining.  A loss of 1.12 million people.  About 62% of her peak population.  So Detroit’s tax base plummeted.  But the size of the public sector didn’t.  For government never grows smaller.  So Detroit continued on with the overhead expenses of a city with a population of 1.8 million people.  With the tax revenue of a city with a population of 680,000 people.  Making bankruptcy inevitable.

The Problems of the City of Detroit are the Problems of the Nation Writ Large

At the height of Detroit’s industrial might there were approximately 300,000 automotive or manufacturing jobs in the city.  Today there are a mere 27,000.  That’s a loss of 273,000 jobs.  That’s 273,000 breadwinners whose families are no longer in the city.  If each of them had on average 2.5 children who remained in the city with their parents that would have added about 1.2 million to the city’s population.  Which corresponds pretty closely to the 1.12 million the city actually lost.  So we can see how the loss of the jobs devastated the population.  But we can also see what it did to the city’s finances.

Let’s assume these breadwinners had their children when they were in their 20s.  So the breadwinner was still in the workforce when their children were 20 and had entered the workforce.  Let’s say this happened over a 40-year period.  So, on average during that 40-year period, there were an additional 136,500 jobs per year.  Let’s say they each owned a house and paid property tax of $750.  Over 40 years that’s about $4.1 billion in lost property tax revenue.  If each of these workers earned $35,000 on average over those 40 years and paid a 3% city income tax that’s about $9.8 billion in lost personal income tax revenue.  Finally, if we figure a 50-50 split between labor and material, a 15% overhead and a 2% net profit we can extrapolate that $35,000 average personal income into approximately $448 billion in lost corporate revenue over those 40 years.  At a city corporate income tax rate of 2% that’s about $9 billion in lost corporate income tax revenue.  Adding these all together we see a total loss of tax revenue to the city of approximately $18.8 billion due to the loss of 273,000 jobs.  Plus or minus.

This is a crude guesstimate with an emphasis on crude but it could be close enough to explain what happened in Detroit.  For with the falling tax base Detroit turned to borrowing more and more money to pay for an oversized public sector.  To service a disappearing population.  With those pension and retiree health care benefits being especially burdensome.  Which forced the city to borrow so much it left them with a debt of $18.5 billion (very close to the $18.8 billion in our little exercise above) that they don’t have a chance in hell of ever repaying.  Leaving bankruptcy as the only option.  Unless the federal government steps in.  Which probably won’t happen.  And shouldn’t happen.  For Detroit is not the only government suffering under the weight of unfunded pension obligations and retiree health care benefits.  If they bail out Detroit then they’ll have to bail out all other states and municipalities.  Which they can’t afford to do.  For the federal government has its own problems with pensions (Social Security) and retiree health care benefits (Medicare).  And they’ve just added a new government benefit that will dwarf the costs of Social Security and Medicare.  Obamacare.  All while burdening the economy with a slew of anti-business regulations that has chased jobs out of the economy.  And out of the country.

So the federal government can’t step in to save Detroit.  For the federal government is working to ‘out Detroit’ Detroit.  As the problems of Detroit are the problems of the nation writ large.  What’s happening in Detroit will happen in other states and cities across the country.  That are spending more money than they have to support an oversized public sector.  And in time what’s happening in Detroit will happen to the federal government.  Bailing out these states and cities will only hasten the downfall of the federal government.  Which the federal government will do whatever it can to prevent.  For while the nation can survive a city like Detroit going bankrupt the nation cannot survive a federal bankruptcy.  Because the numbers are just too big at the federal level.

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Class Warfare

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 3rd, 2013

Politics 101

Over 99.5% of all Rich People ARE paying Federal Income Taxes

President Obama won reelection by denigrating Mitt Romney.  He didn’t win by running on a successful record.  He did not win by running on a plan to pull the economy out of one of the worst recoveries in history.  No.  He won it by getting people to hate Mitt Romney.  And by getting people to hate Republicans.  Who they painted as evil rich people who want nothing more than tax cuts for the rich.  And to take away birth control and abortion so only rich people can have access to them.  As well as taking welfare benefits from the poor.  It’s called class warfare.  And it can be very effective.  For it won President Obama a second term despite a horrible first term by almost any metric you measure it.  At least based on the majority of the electorate that just believed the rich aren’t paying their fair share.  So let’s just see who is paying what (see Table 3.  Number of Individual Income Tax Returns, Income, Exemptions and Deductions, Tax, and Average Tax, by Size of Adjusted Gross Income, Tax Years 2001-2010).

The above chart shows who are NOT paying any federal income tax.  Approximately 40% of all taxpayers.  Are these the evil rich people like Mitt Romney?  And those rich Republicans?  No.  Contrary to the Left, it’s not the rich.  They’re paying their taxes.  It’s the poor and the middle class not paying their fair share.  Those earning $5,000 and less pay virtually no federal income taxes.  Over 80% of those earning from $5,000 to $13,000 pay no federal income taxes.  You have to get up to those earning $25,000 or more before more than half of that income group pays any federal income taxes.

We don’t see who actually pays the majority of federal income taxes until we get into the middle class.  Where those who DON’T pay any federal income taxes rapidly drop away.  Those at the low end of the middle class taking advantage of the tax code to maximize their tax credits and deductions (mortgage interest, energy tax credit, medical and dental Expenses, child and dependent care credit, etc.) to reduce their tax bill.  While those at the higher end of the middle class are likely small business owners suffering a business loss.  Or a personal or business bankruptcy.  Approximately 0.8% of those earning $100,000 – $200,000 pay no federal income taxes.  While less than half of one percent of those earning $200,000 or more pay no federal income taxes.  Perhaps this tiny sliver of income earners are not paying their fair share.  But one thing for certain is that over 99.5% of all rich people ARE paying federal income taxes.

Those earning $1,000,000 and more account for less than 1% of Tax Exemptions and Deductions

So are the rich taking advantage of the tax code to reduce their taxable income and federal tax bill?  We hear a lot about tax loopholes.  Those perfectly legal tax credits and deductions written into law by the United States Congress.  That both those on the Left and those on the Right take advantage of.  Yet those on the Left have convinced enough of the electorate that these legal credits and deductions are tax evasion.  And that only the rich on the Right are using these to evade paying their fair share.  So who is taking the biggest advantage of the tax code to reduce their tax bill?  In 2010 this totaled about $3 trillion.  Is this why those earning $100,000 or more paid no income tax?  For those few not paying any federal income tax?  Not exactly.  (The dollar amounts in the following charts are in thousands of dollars.)

In 2010 taxpayers claimed in total about $3 trillion in exemptions and deductions.  The deficit in 2010 was about $1.3 trillion dollars.  So perhaps this is the reason why we had a deficit in 2010.  This is what the Left would have us believe.  It’s those tax loopholes that the evil rich take advantage of to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.  The only problem with this is that it’s not the rich taking advantage of these tax loopholes.  It’s the poor and middle class.

Those earning $1,000 and less account for less than 1% of these exemptions and deductions.  Those earning $1,000,000 and more also account for less than 1% of these exemptions and deductions.  It’s those earning from $1,000 to $1,000,000 that are taking advantage of these tax loopholes.  Especially those earning from $50,000 to $200,000.  The only income groups claiming 10% or more of the nearly $3 trillion in exemptions and deductions claimed.  So not only are the evil rich paying federal income taxes whatever they claim as exemptions and deductions doesn’t even come close to what the poor and middle class are claiming.

Prosperous Economic Times brought about by Tax Cuts INCREASED Tax Revenues

These numbers don’t exactly support the claim that the rich aren’t paying their fair share.  They’re paying federal income taxes.  And what tax loopholes they exploit hardly makes a dent in the amount of tax revenue the IRS collects.  Which can only mean one of two things.  Either the poor and middle class need to pay more federal income taxes.  Or the federal government is just spending too much.  Well, as we just witnessed in the fiscal cliff debate, President Obama and the Left want to raise taxes.  Blaming the record Obama deficits on the Reagan and Bush tax cuts.  Their deal includes higher income tax rates on households earning $450,000 or more.  But NO spending cuts.  Which will be a problem.

In 2010 the total adjusted gross income totaled just over $8 trillion.  Most of which came from 4 income groups.  About a trillion each from those earning from $50,000 to $75,000, from $75,000 to $100,000 and from $200,000 to $500,000.  Those earning from $100,000 to $200,000 earned in total almost $2 trillion.  Which means the new higher tax rates aren’t going to bring in much new tax revenue.  Because they aren’t taxing the people with the money.  The middle class.  And with some additional spending instead of spending cuts the deficit will only grow larger.  So this whole fiscal cliff debate was nothing but theatre.  For it wasn’t about deficit reduction.  It was about politics.

The Left wants to destroy the Republican Party.  And to do that they need to turn prosperous economic times brought about by the tax cuts of the JFK, Reagan and Bush administrations into the source of all our problems.  Yes the economy boomed, goes the argument, but at what cost?  Massive deficits.  Deficits not brought about by tax cuts.  But by spending.  For those prosperous economic times brought about by tax cuts INCREASED tax revenues.  The deficits resulted from spending increases greater than the revenue increases.  But with a successful campaign of class warfare they have revised history.  Those deficits are now the result of the rich not paying their fair share.   Which helped them increase tax rates on the rich today.  Because the Left got everyone to hate the rich.  And the Republican Party.  Even though the rich are the only ones paying their fair share.  In fact, they’re paying more than their fair share.  But the majority of the electorate doesn’t know this.  Because of that successful campaign of class warfare.

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The Politics of Tax Rates

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 19th, 2012

Politics 101

Cash Starved Small Businesses cannot Afford to pay a Dime more in New Taxes

America is staring at a fiscal cliff.  Thanks to the budget debt limit debate in 2011.  The US was in danger of running out of money and defaulting on their sovereign debt.  The Republicans controlled the House of Representatives.  And the House is in charge of the money.  Before increasing the debt limit the Republicans wanted to get some spending cuts to reduce the federal deficit.  The Democrats wanted to raise tax rates (letting the Bush tax cuts expire, returning to the Clinton tax rates) to reduce the deficit.  They couldn’t reach an agreement.  So they did what politicians always do when they want to run away from a problem.  Create a committee.

The so-called super-committee.  Tasked to come up with $1.2 trillion in spending cuts (over ten years) by the end of 2012.  Or else.  With the ‘or else’ being sequestration.  Automatic budget cuts in defense and entitlement spending to the tune of $1.2 trillion.  The politicians knowing how unpleasant sequestration would be were full of confidence that the super-committee would overcome hell and high water to complete their task.  Because sequestration would be so very, very unpleasant.  Of course, politicians being politicians, kept running away from that problem.  And now we’re staring into the face of sequestration.  Taxmageddon.  The fiscal cliff.  Because the Democrats want to raise taxes on everyone earning over $200,000 (single) or $250,000 (married filing jointly).  But Republicans don’t want to because that will raise taxes on the job creators.  Something that won’t make an anemic economic recovery any better.  So let’s look at the numbers and see what kind of damage we’re looking at.

President Obama’s proposal for new tax rates leaves everything at the 28% marginal rate and below the same.  He proposes increasing the 33% rate to 36%.  And the 35% rate to 39.6%.  The new rates kick in at earnings of $250,000 (all the examples here are calculated for a married couple filing jointly).  Which raises the top income band at the 28% rate.  Holding the net tax increase to only $1,115 for a small business owner with a net income of $350,000.  Which doesn’t seem that bad.  But a small business owner with a net income of $350,000 isn’t exactly rich.  Despite paying income taxes like they are rich.  For most small business owners are S corporations or LLCs.  With their net income passing through to their personal income tax return.  So if the business owner lives on enough to equal two incomes (say $75,000 X 2 = $150,000) so his or her spouse can be a stay-at-home spouse that $1,115 comes out of $107,045 ($350,000 – $92,955 – $150,000).  Which is all they can put back into the business.  To pay for new equipment (which isn’t enough for most purchases forcing them to borrow more money and go further into debt).  To repay debt.  To cover unpaid accounts receivable.  To pay for customer write-offs for an employee error on a project.  To pay for a production run that failed to meet specifications that they couldn’t sell.  To pay for inventory shrinkage (damaged, lost and stolen goods).  To pay for employee raises.  Bonuses.  To hire new employees.  Or to pay for the newly mandated Obamacare.  When you factor in all these cost issues a small business owner may face $107,045 of retained earnings is not a lot of money and leaves a very small cash cushion.  Which is why Republicans do not want to raise taxes on small business owners.

Taxing the Rich more will do nothing to Lower the Deficit

Then presidential candidate John McCain opposed then presidential candidate Barack Obama’s proposed tax rate increases in the 2008 campaign.  Saying it would raise taxes on 23 million small business owners.  FactCheck.org debunked this number saying the actual number is closer to 6 million.  So using their number the additional tax revenue from small businesses would equal about $6.7 billion.  Approximately 0.48% of the federal deficit.  Which will do nothing to reduce the deficit.  But it will take more money away from cash-starved small businesses.  So what about millionaires?  What’s their damage?  And how much will they reduce the deficit?

The proposed tax rates will increase a millionaire’s tax by $30,549.  According to the IRS there were about 119,810 tax returns filed by people earning a million dollars in 2010.  Meaning the proposed increase in tax rates would raise another $3.7 billion in tax revenue from those earning a million dollars.  Which is only 54.7% of the new tax revenue from small business owners generated by those same new tax rates.  And only 0.26% of the federal deficit.  Which will do nothing to reduce the deficit.  So what about richer people?  Will taxing richer people do anything to reduce the deficit?  Let’s look at the numbers for someone earning $5 million.

Someone earning $5 million will pay an additional $214,549 in taxes.  Which is a huge increase.  But according to the IRS there were only 16,574 people who earned $5 million.  Which brings the total increase in tax revenue to only $3.6 billion.  Which is a $100 million less than the millionaires.  And only 0.25% of the federal deficit.  Meaning it will do nothing to reduce the deficit.  Even though they are taking an additional $214,549 away from each person earning $5 million.  That’s a lot of money from each person that results in no significant deficit reduction.  Which is the purpose of the higher proposed tax rates.

We’re simply Spending More than our Tax Revenue can ever Hope to Pay For

Crunching these numbers further we find that the proposed higher tax rates will increase tax revenue by $38.2 billion for everyone earning a million dollars and more based on 2010 IRS tax information.  Which is only 2.7% of the federal deficit.  Which is less than the automatic increases included in baseline budgeting.  Which means these proposed tax increases won’t do anything to reduce the deficit.  In fact the deficit will still grow larger.  Thanks to baseline budgeting.

The problem is that there aren’t enough rich people to tax.  The top 10% of earners are already paying 70% of all federal income taxes.  To raise new tax revenue you have to go to the middle class.  Based on the IRS there were 44,637,653 people filing income tax returns who earned between $50,000 and $200,000.  If each of these people paid an additional $1,115 like those small business owners that would raise an additional $49.8 billion in tax revenue.  Which is 3.6% of the federal deficit.  If you increased their taxes by $2,500 that would increase tax revenue by $111.6 billion.  Or 8% of the federal deficit.  Which may actually keep the deficit from growing.  But it won’t pay it down.

To get serious deficit reduction from the rich you have to take very large sums of money from them because there are so few rich people.  And even then it’s probably not possible to raise tax revenue enough to offset the automatic spending increases included in baseline budgeting.  But it’s a different story with the middle class.  Because there are so many more people in the middle class than there are rich people.  You can keep the deficit from growing by taking a far smaller amount from each of them than you would have to take from the rich.  You could even take enough to overcome the automatic spending increases of baseline budgeting to keep the deficit from growing.  But even the middle class doesn’t have enough people in it to wipe out a $1.4 trillion deficit.  Or make a dent in the federal debt.

No.  The only way to make any significant deficit reduction is with spending cuts.  Which the Democrats are steadfast against.  Because spending is their power.  It’s why people vote for them.  Which is why they will fight for increasing tax rates to the bitter end.  And never negotiate them away.  To continue the facade that new revenue can reduce the deficit.  Even though no amount of new revenue can.  Only spending cuts can.  For our spending has long since passed the Rubicon.  We’re simply spending more than our tax revenue can ever hope to pay for.  And any further increases in tax rates only reduce economic activity.  Causing the small business owners to stand fast on expanding and hiring.  Because economic growth is rewarded with punitive taxation.  So they will grow less with every increase in tax rates.  And with every increase in tax rates tax revenues will fall.  Which will lead to a downward spiral of deficits, debt, lowered credit ratings and possible default.  But anything is better to Democrats than admitting they are wrong.

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Multinationals choose to Pay their Income Taxes in Countries with less Confiscatory Tax Rates

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 2nd, 2012

Week in Review

Do tax rates matter?  Do businesses make decisions based on income tax rates?  Yes.  They do (see MPs call for tax crackdown on multinationals by Tom Bergin posted 12/3/2012 on Reuters).

A committee of MPs has called on government to crack down on multinational companies that make substantial sales in Britain but pay little tax here, echoing demands from leaders across Europe for measures to tackle corporate tax avoidance…

“Global companies with huge operations in the UK generating significant amounts of income are getting away with paying little or no corporation tax here. This is outrageous and an insult to British businesses and individuals who pay their fair share,” said Margaret Hodge, who chairs the PAC…

Amazon pays little income tax in the UK because it channels UK sales through Luxembourg, which offers some of the lowest effective tax rates in Europe…

The French government said last month that it was discussing new measures to tax internet companies such as Amazon and Google, which minimises its tax bill by booking sales through an Irish subsidiary.

These high tax rate countries look at these multinationals as tax cheats.  The domestic businesses look at them as getting an unfair tax advantage.  The multinationals simply choose to pay their income taxes in low-tax countries.  They’re not avoiding paying their income taxes.  They’re just paying them in countries with less confiscatory tax rates.

These countries aren’t getting away without paying any local taxes.  Most of these countries have a sales tax.  A VAT tax.  And other taxes and fees.  For every cup of coffee Starbucks sells a percentage of that sale goes to the state.  Just not as much as the state would like.  Who would prefer something closer to all of it.  But the more they raise their tax rates the less tax revenue they collect.  Because businesses and rich people avoid high-tax states.  And take their income to countries with less confiscatory tax rates.

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Higher Marginal Tax Rates cause Millionaires to leave Britain and Reduce Tax Revenues

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 2nd, 2012

Week in Review

The Beatles were part of the British Invasion.  They came to the US, conquered, earned obscene amounts of money and went home.  And when they did the British took about 95% of their earnings.  Prompting George Harrison to write the song Taxman.  “There’s one for you, nineteen for me.  ‘Cause I’m the taxman.”  If you do the math (1 divided by 20) that comes out to a top marginal tax rate of 95%.  Shortly thereafter the Beatles were no longer British.  They became tax exiles.  And they weren’t the last Brits to leave their highly taxed country (see Two-thirds of millionaires left Britain to avoid 50p tax rate by Robert Winnett posted 11/27/2012 on The Telegraph).

In the 2009-10 tax year, more than 16,000 people declared an annual income of more than £1 million [$1.6 million US] to HM Revenue and Customs.

This number fell to just 6,000 after Gordon Brown introduced the new 50p top rate of income tax shortly before the last general election…

Last night, Harriet Baldwin, the Conservative MP who uncovered the latest figures, said: “Labour’s ideological tax hike led to a tax cull of millionaires.

Far from raising funds, it actually cost the UK £7 billion [$11.235 billion US] in lost tax revenue…

Mr Osborne argued earlier this year that the 50p rate was deterring entrepreneurs from coming to Britain.

So many politicians say rich people won’t leave if they raise income tax rates.  But the evidence is that they do.  And who can blame people like George Harrison?  Being a Beatle wasn’t easy.  The band broke up before anyone was older than 30.  Because they couldn’t stand it any longer.  Imagine doing something that you enjoy less and less while giving about 95% of your income to the taxman.  If you’re going to do something you don’t enjoy for the money you will want to at least keep the majority of what you earn.

So, does raising tax rates to confiscatory levels make rich people leave the country?  Yes.  And if they leave what percentage of their earnings does the taxman get?  Zero percent.  So what brings in more tax revenue?  A 95% tax rate taxing no income?  Or a much lower tax rate taxing any income?  The lower tax rate taxing any income, of course.  Because it takes two things to make tax revenue.  A tax rate.  And income to tax.  For a tax rate without income to tax is useless.

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Clinton Tax Rates, Japan’s Lost Decade, Irrational Exuberance, Dot-Com Bubble, EBT and Job-Creating Capital

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 14th, 2012

History 101

The Economy of the Nineties boomed because of Japan’s Lost Decade and Irrational Exuberance

President Obama wants to raise taxes on the wealthy.  He wants to go back to the Clinton tax rates.  The economy was booming during the Clinton Nineties.  Better than it is now.  Tax rates were higher in the Nineties than they are now.  While the deficit is greater now than it was in the Nineties.  And the debt is greater than it was in the Nineties.  The conclusion?  Higher tax rates improve economic activity.  Produce smaller deficits.  And grow the debt at a slower rate.  At least, that’s what those who want to raise tax rates say.  The only problem with this is that there are reasons why the economy was booming in the Nineties.  And it didn’t have to do with tax rates.  But, instead, the Japanese.  And irrational exuberance.

The Japanese government partnered with business in the Eighties.  Corporations worked closely together for the good of the export economy.  And the national economy.  This was Japan Inc.  And the economy surged.  Fueled by low interest rates.  People in America worried about the Japanese buying American landmark assets with their fat profits.  An American magazine joked that America would become a wholly owned subsidiary of a Japanese corporation.  A Democrat presidential candidate said America was a fool for not doing what the Japanese were doing.  But the good times didn’t last.  That inflationary monetary policy caused a massive asset bubble.  And when it burst the Japanese suffered a deflationary spiral that last a decade or more.  Their Lost Decade.  This great contraction weakened America’s greatest economic competitor.  Greatly helping the US economy.

Also during the Nineties the Internet was coming of age.  In the Eighties there was the personal computer.  Silicon Valley.  And Microsoft.  A lot of investors were looking for the Microsoft of the Nineties.  No one knew who that was going to be.  But one thing everyone knew was that it was going to be a dot-com.  Investors poured money into dot-coms that didn’t have anything to sell.  Hence the irrational exuberance.  Dot-coms built great office buildings and technology corridors in cities.  New ‘Silicon Valleys’ were appearing across the country.  Kids went to college to learn how to make websites and set up ecommerce.  All these young kids filled these new dot-com buildings.  But when the investment money ran out these companies went bankrupt.  As they had no revenue.  Or anything to sell.  The dot-com bubble burst after Clinton’s Nineties.  Giving George W. Bush a bad recession at the beginning of his first term.  Also, President Clinton pressured lenders to qualify the unqualified for mortgages they couldn’t afford.  Starting a great real estate bubble.  That burst after Clinton’s Nineties.  Causing the subprime mortgage crisis about a decade later.

The Government taxes Small Business Owners as Rich People even though they’re not really Rich People

So there is more to the Nineties than those Clinton tax rates.  The Japanese gave them an able assist.  Then a lot of bad investing creating a lot of artificial economic activity that created a bubble.  That crashed into a recession.  Thanks to a lot of governmental interference in the private sector economy.  They kept interest rates artificially low.  And offered a lot of incentives to get those dot-coms to build in their cities.  Leaving cities with a lot of empty buildings, budget deficits, bloated public sector payrolls and no increase in tax revenue to pay for the additional infrastructure and services.  This is what the Clinton policies gave us.  Not sustained economic activity.  Or a budget surplus.  So going back to the Clinton tax rates is not likely to produce sustained economic activity.  Or a budget surplus.  Especially when President Obama has outspent Clinton over a trillion dollars a year.

So returning to the Clinton tax rates won’t help to reduce the deficit unless they return to the Clinton spending as well.  And that’s not likely to happen.  So what will the increase in tax rates do?  Well, we can get an idea by comparing the Clinton tax rates (1999) to the last tax rates we used (2011).  As they apply to a small business.  The following is an income statement for what could be a typical small business with about $1.8 million in annual sales revenue.

This is a very summarized income statement using some typical percentages for cost of sales and overhead.  This also assumes about $350,000 of debt on the company books.  Giving an interest expense of about $28 grand.  When you subtract all of these expenses from revenue you arrive at an earnings before taxes (EBT) of $358,016.73.  For many small business owners this EBT flows to their personal income tax return as personal income.  Which sounds like a lot.  But business owners will leave most of this money in their businesses.  So while the government taxes them as rich people they’re not really rich people.  For what the government doesn’t tax away will become retained earnings.  And reinvested back into their businesses.

Higher Taxes and Higher Regulatory Costs hurt Job Growth by taking away Job-Creating Capital from Businesses

All right, so let’s look at what the government would tax away.  Based on the 1999 tax rates.  And the 2011 tax rates.  Using the tax rates for married filing jointly we get the following income tax for each set of tax rates.

The 1999 tax brackets give an effective tax rate of 31.4%.  In 2011 that fell 4.7 points to 26.7%.  Which increased net profit from 13.7% in 1999 to 14.6%.  An increase of 0.93 points.  Not as big a change as in the income tax rate.  But it’s an additional $16,730.50 the small business would have to reinvest into the business.  Which could pay for a lot (even help pay their interest expense).  Especially over time.  In two years that’s about $33,461.  In five years that’s about $83,650.  In ten years that’s about $167,300.  That’s a lot of ‘free’ money the business could use to grow their business that they didn’t have to pay back.  But if we returned to the Clinton tax rates that’s money these businesses would no longer have to invest into their business.  Forcing them to pay to borrow money.  Adding additional interest expense.  And burdening the business with greater debt.  Which would be a disincentive to add additional costs.  Like creating new jobs and hiring people.

A lot of small business owners don’t pay themselves.  That is, they don’t get a paycheck like everyone else in their business.  Instead they distribute earnings from the business.  People think all business owners are rich.  But here’s something they don’t understand.  Even though they pay income taxes on their total business earnings they may only take a small percentage of their earnings out of the business.  In this example the married couple draws $75,000 a year to live on.  Even though they paid income taxes on $358,016.73.  Netting only $75,000 on these earnings would be like having 79.1% of your earnings withheld in taxes from your paycheck.  While these numbers vary among business owners this generally holds true.  They pay taxes on amounts far greater than what they take out of their business to live on.

If we go back to the Clinton tax rates it will reduce the amount of investment capital owners have to grow their business.  Which new regulations have already reduced by increasing costs.  With the unknowns of Obamacare basically freezing all new hiring.  As small business owners don’t know if the government will leave them enough money to grow their businesses.  Or even enough to maintain their current business operations.  Which is how higher taxes and higher regulatory costs hurt job growth.  By taking away job-creating capital from businesses.

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With Falling Tax Revenue on Incomes Britain proposes Taxing Wealth that was already Taxed as Income

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 2nd, 2012

Week in Review

Taxing the rich doesn’t raise tax revenues.  At least it hasn’t yet.  Because what taxing officials don’t understand, or refuse to understand, is that it takes two things to make tax revenue.  A tax rate.  And economic activity.  If you raise the tax rate too high you will reduce economic activity.  So those higher tax rates will tax lower amounts of income.  Thus reducing overall tax revenue.

Perhaps the British taxing officials do understand that.  So they are proposing to tax not income but wealth.  To seize a little of what the wealth creators created.  And already paid taxes on it as past income (see ‘Emergency’ Tax on the Rich Roils Britain by Robert Frank, CNBC, posted 8/30/2012 on Yahoo! Finance).

Deputy Prime Minster Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal-Democrat Party, has proposed a one-time tax on the wealth (rather than the incomes) of high-net-worth Britons. The details aren’t clear, but Clegg says the country is facing an economic war caused by a prolonged recession, and needs to tax the rich in order to avoid social unrest…

Baroness Susan Kramer, a member of Clegg’s party in the House of Lords, said that a wealth tax could be more effective than an income tax, and that the wealthy won’t move away…

Britain’s tax distribution is less progressive than America’s, with the top 1 percent paying about 24 percent of the total income taxes in the U.K. In the United States, the same group pays more than 35 percent. The top 10 percent in Britain pays 55 percent of income taxes, while in America the top 10 percent pays 59 percent.

You would think that 1% of the people should pay 1% of the taxes.  That would be fair.  But in progressive tax systems ‘fair’ means redistributing wealth from those who’ve earned it to those who did not earn it.  Which is why 1% pays 24% of total income taxes in Britain.  And that same 1% in the United States pays 35% in total taxes.  The top 10% pay over half of all income taxes in both countries.  Yet the left in both countries insist the rich aren’t paying their fair share.  If not then what, pray tell, is fair?  Having this 1% pay 50%?  75%?  95%?  If you did make them pay this much you’d have a problem.  They would no longer be part of the 1%.

The wealthy won’t move away?  Has she never heard of tax exiles?  Like the Rolling Stones?  The Beatles?  Sting?  Led Zeppelin?  Freddie Mercury of Queen?  Phil Collins?  Pink Floyd?  David Bowie?  The Spice Girls?  Michael Caine?  Sean Connery?  Rod Stewart?  Ozzy Osbourne?  U2?  A lot of their music was played during the recent 2012 Olympic Games.  A rich treasure trove of British talent.  Chased away by high taxes.

Wealthy people move away.  Yes, some have come back when their home country reduced their confiscatory tax rates.  But high taxes make wealthy people look for sunnier climes.  And it’s the wealthiest of people that can do this.  These aren’t immigrants getting off the boat at Ellis Island with loose change in their pockets.  These are people that probably already own real estate in other countries.  And live part of their lives in these other countries.  So making the final move to these other countries is more of a matter of logistics than any deep soul searching.

What’s better?  Having, say, 30% of rich people’s income?  Or having 0%?  It doesn’t take an advanced mathematical degree to know that 30% is greater than 0%.  If you try to take more than what is fair—fair as decided by the wealth creator—the wealth creator may take all of his or her money and leave.  Following the notable train of tax exiles that went before them.  And when they do it will only make the budget crisis worse.  Because it won’t take many of the 1% to leave to cause a dangerous fall in tax revenue.

And when you think about it what do these rich people owe their governments?  Their government wasn’t with them on tour sleeping in hotels.  It wasn’t their government writing music and lyrics that enough people loved to fill stadiums during concerts.  It was something these few 1% could do.  Did.  And they did it themselves.  So when the government came around to take up to 80% or more of what they created away they said “nice knowing you but it’s time for me to go.”  And they did.  To sunnier climes around the world to places with a friendly tax policy.  Where they could keep what they earned.

And it will happen again.  Unless you arrest the wealthy and force them to be creative so you can tax them.  But under those circumstances they may withhold their creativity.  Then what?  What do you do when you take that 24% of income taxes paid by the 1% to 0%?  If you think there’s social unrest now just wait until 24% of all government spending disappears.

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The Federal Government taxes away about Half of Every Dollar the Middle Class Earns

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 19th, 2012

Week in Review

Thanks to withholding tax people don’t fully appreciate how high their taxes are.  They know they’re high.  So high that gross pay means nothing to them.  Workers only speak of ‘net’ pay.  Or ‘take home’ pay.  The money they actually get.  Not that strange fictitious ‘gross’ pay on their paycheck stub.  Whatever that is.  And what is gross pay?  Their pay.  It’s their money.  And they would have had it when they cashed their paychecks if their employers didn’t withhold it so they could give it to the government.  And why does the government use the withholding tax to take our money?  Because if we had to write a check at the end of the year for our full tax amount there would probably be a nationwide tax revolt.  Which is why the taxing authorities take that money before it gets into our hands.  Because once it is in our hands people may be less willing to hand it over to the taxman.  Which is probably why the Founding Fathers didn’t include any withholding taxes in the Constitution.  They did not want to make it easy for the government to take our money.

So how high are the taxes on the middle class?  Pretty high (see Government Will Take Almost Half Your Paycheck in 2013 by Patrick Tyrrell posted 8/13/2012 on The Foundry).

A middle-class taxpayer’s income is subject to a 25 percent federal income tax. Then there is the federal Social Security and Medicare payroll tax of 13.3 percent in 2012—5.65 percent of that is removed from the employee’s paycheck, and the remaining 7.65 percent is paid by the employer. (In reality, the employee pays the entire 13.3 percent, because the employer’s portion of the tax does not affect the cost of labor: The employer would pay the employee 7.65 percent more if there were no employer’s portion of the payroll tax.)

So the 25 percent federal income tax plus 13.3 Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes equals 38.3 percent going to federal taxes in 2012.

And then there are state taxes. According to the Tax Foundation, the average state’s income tax rate for the middle-class taxpayer is 4.82 percent, which brings the total to 43.12 percent in federal and state taxes.

In Billy Joe’s Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song) he says, “You can pay Uncle Sam with the overtime.  Is that all you get for your money?”  The point being is this.  Yes you can give up your Saturday and work some overtime.  But is it really worth it when you can only keep about $0.57 of each additional dollar you earn?  Not really.  Which is why a lot of people who work with their hands will do ‘side work’ for cash under the table.  So they can keep every penny of every dollar they earn.

Or some will work some hours serving tables in a restaurant.  For a little extra spending cash.  I worked with a lady who did.  A devout liberal Democrat.  And part of the middle class.  I asked her if she reported all her tips so she could pay her fair share of taxes on those earnings.  Even though she was a steadfast liberal Democrat voter who always voted ‘yes’ to increase tax rates on others she said the government had already taxed her enough.  So that those supplemental earnings should be hers free and clear.  Of course, that’s not how the tax law works.  You make more you pay more.  She wouldn’t give me a definitive answer on whether she reported all her tips as income.  But it was interesting to hear her say that high tax rates were fair.  As long as she didn’t have to pay them.  Well, her taxes will be going up.  Fair or not.

And it’s going higher, thanks to the nearly $500 billion in tax increases for 2013 that some have called Taxmageddon. In January of next year, the federal income tax rate for middle-class taxpayers is scheduled to rise from 25 percent to 28 percent, and the payroll tax is scheduled to rise from 13.3 percent to 15.3 percent. This drives the marginal tax rate based on the aforementioned three taxes to 48.12 percent. Add in state and local property, corporate, excise, and other state and local taxes, and the percentage of each additional dollar that is taxed hovers around 50 percent.

When half of each additional dollar earned is taxed away, taxpayers experience a disincentive to start businesses or expand existing ones. This leads to fewer jobs being created.

It’s like we divorced our government in the state of California.  And we lost half of everything we earn to a spiteful ex.  Half!  Yeah, that really encourages you to work hard and build your business and hire more people.  So you can deal with the labyrinth of government regulatory compliance.  Lawsuits.  Insurances.  Drug testing.  Sexual harassment training.  All the while hearing the government tell you, “You didn’t build that.”  That you somehow won life’s lottery to riches.  And that you’re greedy for not wanting to pay more taxes.  And for what?  To keep half of every dollar you earn?  It would be a lot easier just to lay off all your workers. Shut down your business.  And go to work for someone else.  And let them deal with these headaches.  Like they did in the Roman Empire as it was collapsing under the weight of her welfare state.  Until the Romans passed laws forbidding people from quitting the work they were doing.

The sad thing is that so many people will vote to perpetuate this binge of taxation.  While they themselves will do everything within their power to avoid paying their own ‘fair share’ of taxes.  While demanding the rich pay more.  Even though the top 10% are already paying 70% of all federal taxes.  The truth is that the rich can’t pay these taxes.  There just aren’t enough of them.  Even if you take everything they earn.  Which leaves the middle class to make up this tax shortfall.  So they take half of everything they earn.  And will continue to take more as their spending continues to grow.  And if people begin to quit the hard jobs because they can’t keep their earnings perhaps the government will step in like the Romans did.  And force people to be doctors.  To run pharmaceutical companies.  To build the next new technology.  It’s happened before to an empire that began as a limited republican government.  So it can probably happen again.  Besides who would have ever thought that the country borne out of a tax rebellion would one day take half of every dollar a middle class worker made?  No one would have seen this coming.  And yet here we are.  Paying half of every dollar we earn to Uncle Sam.

The Founding Fathers would be flabbergasted.  Upset.  And saddened.  To see what had become of their beloved republic.  And their experiment in limited self-government.

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Sixteenth Amendment, Revenue Act of 1913, Progressive Tax, Marginal Tax Rate, Tax Shelter, Tax Cuts and Decade of Greed

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 10th, 2012

History 101

Americans find Taxes Repugnant and have a Long History of Making this Repugnance Known

American independence began with a tax revolt.  The ratification of the U.S. Constitution happened only with safeguards against the new federal government from growing too powerful.  And great efforts went to limiting the amount of money it could spend.  For a long time all federal tax revenue came from import tariffs.  Then from sales of federal lands as the population moved west.  It took a civil war for us to impose an income tax.  Our first income tax was 3% on incomes over $800 (or about $20,000 today).  The first income tax was a flat tax.  They passed this income tax to pay for the war.  They repealed the income tax following the war.  Americans wouldn’t see another federal income tax until 1913 when we ratified the Sixteenth Amendment.  And President Woodrow Wilson signed into law the Revenue Act of 1913.

Woodrow Wilson was a progressive.  The precursor to today’s liberals.  Who thought beyond the limited government of our Founding Fathers.  They wanted to expand government.  To make it a part of our everyday life.  Where the brilliant progressive politicians would make better decisions for us than we ever could.  And their changing of society included the funding of the federal government.  For their income tax was a progressive tax.  Everyone paid a flat tax of 1% on income of $3,000 or more.  About $66,100 today.  Then the progressive taxes came into play.   Adding another percentage to the income tax rate for increasing amounts of income.  The thresholds for these increases were as follows: $20,000 (roughly $440,400 today), $50,000 ($1,101,000 today), $75,000 ($1,651,600), $100,000 ($2,202,100), $250,000 ($5,505,300) and $500,000 ($11,010,700).  The top marginal tax rate on the super rich (earning $11,010,700) was 7%.

Our second income tax was quite controversial.  A lot of people hated it.  For Americans find taxes repugnant.  And have a long history of making this repugnance well known.  But thanks to the American Civil War a generation of men was lost.  And a generation of boys grew up without fathers.  Tended on by doting mothers.  Smothering them with love and affection.  And these boys grew up without knowing the manly hardships of life.  And they entered politics.  Becoming those early progressives.  Who wanted to change the government into a great doting mother.  And now they could.  For they had their income tax.

Few paid the Confiscatory Tax Rates of the Seventies by Hiding their Income in Tax Shelters

The rich paid our first federal income taxes after the Revenue Act of 1913.  And these were very small percentages we had them pay.  Back then the top marginal tax rate was lower than our lowest income tax rate today.  Think about that.  The richest of the rich paid only 7% of their income ($11,010,700 or more today) in federal income taxes.  While today single people earning the lowest bracket of taxable income (from $0 to $8,700) pay 10% of their income in federal income taxes.  Clearly the growth of government exploded thanks to the Sixteenth Amendment.  Much as our Founding Fathers feared it would if they had too much money to spend.

Of course, this is ancient history.  Few know about this today.  For few could even tell you why we fought for our independence.  Or even who we fought for our independence from.  (We fought for our independence from Great Britain because of their policies to tax us despite our having no representation in Parliament.  That’s where the phrase taxation without representation came from).  Today high taxes are sadly just an accepted part of life.  In fact, we have referred to our paychecks as take-home pay.  Our net pay.  Because gross pay is a myth.  No one sees their gross pay.  About a third or more of that disappears in withholding taxes.  So gross pay is a meaningless expression for us today.  (It wasn’t before the Sixteenth Amendment or before the progressives came to power).  Something that we sadly accept.  And we now fund our lives on the take-home pay the government allows us to keep.  All the while accepting these high tax rates.

Government spending took off in the Sixties and the Seventies.  As did our taxes.  If we had once thought that a 7% tax on incomes of $11,010,700 or more was an outrage, we didn’t see anything yet.  In 1978 the top marginal tax rate was 70% on incomes of $351,712 or more.  And there were 25 marginal tax rates.  As shown here adjusted for inflation (sources: Tax Rates, Tax Receipts, and Celebrity Incomes).

 In this example we calculated the average of some top celebrities.  And the top celebrities on average earned about $30,000,000 in 2010.  Using the 1978 tax brackets they would have owed $20,936,506 in federal income taxes.  Or approximately 69.8% of their total income.  Which is pretty much equal to the top marginal tax rate.  Of course, few paid these confiscatory tax rates.  They hid their income as best as they could in the Seventies.  In tax shelters.  And you know they did because despite these confiscatory tax rates the federal government still ran budget deficits.  Having to print money to pay for their explosion in government spending. 

The Low Tax Rates of the Eighties created so much Economic Activity the Opposition called it the Decade of Greed

The heyday of Keynesian economics was in the Seventies.  After Richard Nixon decoupled the dollar from gold the Keynesians were free to print money to stimulate the economy.  Which was their answer to ending a recession.  Stimulus spending.  Have the government print money to create economic activity that wasn’t happening in the private sector.  Their policy tool to end a recession was inflation.  By pouring money into the economy people would borrow it and buy cars and houses and furniture.  And everything else under the sun.  Creating a surge of economic activity.  And creating jobs in the process as businesses must hire new workers to meet that government stimulated demand.  With the dollar decoupled from the ‘cross of gold’ the Keynesians were finally able to prove their mettle.  And solve all the country’s economic problems.  It was the dawn of a brave new world.

And that world sucked.  For the implementation of Keynesian economic policy proved those policies did not work.  Instead of replacing high unemployment with inflation they just added high inflation to the high unemployment.  Something that was impossible to happen in Keynesian textbooks.  But it happened.  Stagnant economic activity.  And inflation.  What we called stagflation.  We added the unemployment rate to the inflation rate to come up with a new economic indicator.  The misery index.  The economy was so miserable during Jimmy Carter’s 4 years in office that he lost in a landslide to Ronald Reagan.  Who was a proponent not of Keynesian economics but of the Austrian school.  Or supply side economics.   And the Austrians believed in low tax rates.  For low tax rates would stimulate economic activity.  And the greater amount of economic activity would generate a greater amount of tax revenue even at lower tax rates.  Let’s look at that same celebrity paying taxes a decade later under Ronald Reagan.

 Much simpler.  And more in keeping with the Founding Fathers.  Instead of paying 70% of their earnings in federal income taxes they will only pay 28% (again, equal to the top marginal tax rate.  Which is pretty much the only tax rate the rich pay).  That’s still a lot of money to give to the federal government.  But it’s so much smaller that in many cases it was cheaper and easier to pay Uncle Sam than trying to hide that income.  So economic activity took off in the Eighties.  It was so great that the opposition called it the Decade of Greed.  Out of sour grapes because their policies could never produce anything like it.  But what about tax revenue?  Those on the Left say this economic activity came at a price.  Exploding deficits.  Well, the deficits did grow.  But it wasn’t because of the cuts in the tax rates.

Higher Tax Rates do not Necessarily Increase Tax Revenue 

In 1978 total tax revenue was $1,113.6 billion.  In 1988 total tax revenue was $1,421.1 billion.  So Reagan’s cuts in the tax rates produced $307.5 billion more in tax revenue.  An increase of about 27.6%.  Dropping the top marginal tax rate from 70% to 28% actually increased tax revenue.  So the cut in tax rates did not cause the deficits.  It wasn’t a revenue problem.  Revenue went up.  Spending just increased more.  And it was this excessive government spending that caused the deficits.  Not the tax cuts. 

The lesson here is that higher tax rates do not necessarily increase tax revenue.  Because changes in tax rates changes behavior.  Higher tax rates discourage people from investing in businesses.  They discourage businesses from expanding.  Or hiring new workers.  Higher tax rates may decrease the opportunity costs for hiding income.  The cost and inconvenience of hiding income in tax shelters and offshore accounts may become less that the cost of paying higher taxes.  Like it was during the Seventies.  Where despite confiscatory tax rates the government could not generate enough tax revenue to meet their spending obligations.

Income tax rates grew from a very small percentage on only the largest of incomes to high tax rates on very modest incomes.  And yet our deficits have never been larger.  Proving that our tax rates are either too high and dampen economic activity (as well as encouraging people to avoid paying their taxes).  Or that government spending has just grown too large.  More than likely it’s a combination of the two.  A fact that would shock and dismay the Founding Fathers were they alive to see what we did with the republic they gave us.

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