Bruce Bartlett

 -- In order to offset the regressivity of the NRST, it would establish a massive new government entitlement program costing hundreds of billions of dollars that would send rebate checks to every American on a monthly basis. This system would be based on the poverty level income established by the Census Bureau. People would get 23 percent of this amount annually in 12 monthly installments based on their family status. Quite apart from the massive complexity of this proposal, it would clearly require an enormous enforcement mechanism to avoid fraud and would undoubtedly be manipulated by politicians. It would be very tempting to change the formula to aid the poor and penalize the rich, just as the current tax code does.

 -- Every serious analysis has concluded that a NRST would have massive evasion. Taxing the spending of drug dealers and others not currently paying income taxes will not come close to compensating for the new evasion opportunities that will be created. Since it is not in the interest of either retailers or consumers to pay the tax, and because all of the revenue is collected at the point of final sale, it will be too easy for tax-free deals to be made with producers and wholesalers.

 Although evasion of state sales taxes is relatively small, that is only because the rates are low enough that it is not worth the trouble. However, where rates are high on things like tobacco, evasion is also high. A vast amount of foreign experience indicates that retail sales taxes cannot be collected much above 10 percent without breaking down.

 Under our current tax system, there is withholding of taxes on wages, which is the vast bulk of the tax base. Under a value-added tax (VAT), something similar occurs because taxes are paid at each point of the production-distribution system. Thus, if the retailer fails to collect the tax, only a small portion of the total revenue is lost, whereas with a NRST, all of it would be lost.

 Primarily for this reason, every single country that has ever contemplated something like a NRST has instead chosen a VAT, which the NRST people oppose.


Bruce Bartlett

Bruce Bartlett is a former senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis of Dallas, Texas. Bartlett is a prolific author, having published over 900 articles in national publications, and prominent magazines and published four books, including Reaganomics: Supply-Side Economics in Action.

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