Questions for the Fair Tax Crowd

Jerry Bowyer
Posted: Jan 09, 2008 12:41 PM
Questions for the Fair Tax Crowd


Why do you think that a sales tax is less prone to corruption and complexity than an income tax?

When the income tax was originally promoted by William Jennings Bryan and other populists it was labeled as being fairer, since it would not hit the poor. When initially implemented it was very simple. However, over time special interest groups were able to lobby for exemptions, deductions, and other special treatment. Why would a sales tax not undergo the same process? Does the fair tax somehow magically abolish selfishness?

Are sales taxes, where they are currently in operation, simple and free from special interest lobbying?

The Europeans have a sales tax, called the VAT, which is extremely complex. Why wouldn’t that happen here? States have sales taxes, which, even despite their low rates still have long lists of items which are exempt or not exempt, and they still have people who cheat on them. If this happens at low rates, why wouldn’t it happen at much higher rates? Does moving the concept from Europe to the U.S., or from the State level to the national level, somehow render the legislative process more pure? If so, why is our income tax so riddled with complexity and special pleading to begin with?

Does it apply to non-profits?

If so, then they’ve become taxable and it would discourage charity. Also, wouldn’t churches become taxable? Aren’t there constitutional issues here? If not, then the tax advantage of non-profits disappears. If they’d be taxed the same way as businesses, wouldn’t this remove a great deal of tax encouragement for non-profit enterprise and shift talent and treasure away from that sector?

Are used goods, non-taxable?

If so, this means less goods production, more yard sales, eBay stuff, etc. Won’t this hurt traditional retailers and goods producers? Why wouldn’t this encourage evasion through rehabilitation? After all what exactly constitutes New vs. Used? If I repair a car, it’s used, but what if I upgrade it? New engine, but old chassis, is that new or used? Computers, too. New hard-drive, but old CPU; is that new or used? How does this not get complicated?

What about the transition period?

Before the sales tax takes effect, won’t there be a buying binge? Afterwards, won’t there be a buying drought? If so, doesn’t that cause a debt spike to finance purchases before the ‘sale’ ends? The implications for banking and currency policy are way too complicated for me to foresee.

Isn’t it true that the rate is not really 23% but 30% at least, because it’s tax-inclusive?

And even this does not count dynamic effects in which changed behavior and evasion narrow the base and raise the rate.

How do we determine the interest portion of mortgage payment?

If non-specified, business will simply give big discounts on price and then make up for it in the interest calculation, as interest is deemed non-taxable. These calculations are highly malleable and can become very complex. Homes will be financed with low-ball prices and high interest rates, and sup-prime mortgages will skyrocket.

If a cap is put on excludable interest, then at what rate? Federal rates? That makes the Fed a tax-setting agency and hyper-politicizes monetary policy.