BRUCE BARTLETT: Prof. Michael Graetz of Columbia Law School has proposed what I believe is a MacArthur-like solution to tax reform. He would abolish the income tax for the vast bulk of Americans and replace the revenue with a 12.5 percent value-added tax. People would pay their taxes when they buy things and wouldn’t need to worry about keeping records or filing tax returns at all.
The brilliance of the Graetz plan is that no tax expenditures need to be repealed. He would simply give every family a tax exemption of $100,000, which would eliminate the income tax for 90 percent of those now filing returns.
Comment:~ Why not abolish the income tax entirely? Retaining a partial system would leave taxpayers vulnerable to bracket creep as inflation pushes them into higher tax brackets. Income tax is a highly inefficient tax to administer and collect compared to broad-based taxes such as VAT. The argument that VAT increases the burden on the poor can be overcome by a subsidy (not an exemption) on basic foodstuffs and other essentials. Switching to a VAT-based system also makes the issues of income-splitting and use of tax havens redundant. One of the few negatives I can think of is that replacing income tax with a VAT may encourage offshore consumption — taking an overseas holiday for example rather than holidaying locally — in order to avoid consumption tax. I would welcome suggestions as to how this could be countered, as well as any further negatives you may think of.