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Posts Tagged ‘Income Taxes’

The Real Tax Scandal – LewRockwell

Posted by M. C. on June 30, 2021

No, the real scandal is this: federal income taxes are almost entirely about control and not revenue. The byzantine rules and selective enforcement are perfectly designed to keep ordinary people with limited means in mortal fear of the IRS. A tax audit, like cancer, can come out of nowhere and ruin your life.

Federal income taxes have always been a tool for compliance. The IRS has always been a tool for presidents to go after rivals—or for rivals to go after presidents. Why would we expect otherwise?

https://www.lewrockwell.com/2021/06/jeff-deist/the-real-tax-scandal/

By Jeff Deist

Mises.org

The self-styled investigative journalism outlet ProPublica recently published private IRS tax information—presumably embarrassing private tax information—for a host of ultrawealthy and famous Americans. I say “self-styled” because the organization claims a pretty lofty and self-important mission to use the “moral force” of journalism on behalf of the public interest against abuses of power. But does this apply to state power, such as when a federal agency employee illegally leaks sensitive material to media? And why is it presumed to be in the public’s interest to have rich billionaires pay more in taxes? Maybe we’d rather have them investing in their companies, or at least buying megayachts and Gulfstream jets, rather than sending more resources to the black hole of DC? Why is the public interest always defined as “things progressives like”?

ProPublica has obtained a vast trove of Internal Revenue Service data on the tax returns of thousands of the nation’s wealthiest people, covering more than 15 years. The data provides an unprecedented look inside the financial lives of America’s titans, including Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch and Mark Zuckerberg. It shows not just their income and taxes, but also their investments, stock trades, gambling winnings and even the results of audits.

And as an aside, it’s worthwhile to recall the tremendous whopper of a lie President Franklin Delano Roosevelt told back in 1935—namely that no one other than the program’s administrators would ever know your private Social Security number. Today, of course, Social Security numbers are the absolute linchpin of one’s entire financial identity, and known by everyone from the IRS to your local credit union.

Yet the real scandal here is not the IRS leak, which was no doubt internal and designed to gin up public support for Biden’s proposed tax increases while advancing a progressive inequality narrative. Political capture of federal agencies is nothing new or shocking; that’s what presidents do (or have done to them). Nor is it particularly scandalous that the wealthiest people sometime pay little in federal income tax, at least relative to their income. After all, elites by definition tend to wield power rather than fear it, especially when it comes to state power. And they have lobbyists and accountants to make sure taxes remain something the little people pay.

No, the real scandal is this: federal income taxes are almost entirely about control and not revenue. The byzantine rules and selective enforcement are perfectly designed to keep ordinary people with limited means in mortal fear of the IRS. A tax audit, like cancer, can come out of nowhere and ruin your life. In some cases it can land you in jail. Tax enforcement is the ultimate check on the public’s behavior; after all, who takes up the cause of a tax cheat? For middle-class Americans the IRS is an existential threat, but for Jeff Bezos it is another business expense to be minimized.

And as for revenue, consider that Uncle Sam borrowed nearly half of the dollars spent by Congress in fiscal 2020. With covid shutdowns, federal income taxes amounted to about $3.42 trillion, while spending was $6.55 trillion. If the federal government can finance 50 percent of its annual spending through deficits, why not 80 percent or 100 percent? Why do we need the IRS terror regime at all?

Again, this is about control. Progressives will never give up the income tax for this very reason. Proponents of modern monetary theory, for example, are almost uniformly left progressive in political outlook. These are the people cheering Biden’s >$1 trillion infrastructure spending bill because of their fervent belief that deficits don’t matter.

MMT rests on two central assertions.1 First, sovereign governments with their own currencies can print as much money as needed to fund operations without fear of insolvency or bankruptcy—unless a purely political decision is made to go broke. Government deficits per se do not matter, because the only real constraint in any economy is the amount of real resources available rather than the amount of money. In fact, MMT views government debt as private financial wealth—money inserted into the economy by the central state but not taxed back.

Second, sovereign governments with their own currencies can require tax payments to be made in that currency. Therefore any overheating in the economy in the form of inflation resulting from too much money can be fixed by pulling some money back to the Treasury via tax increases. This is the ostensible reason MMTers are not quite ready to give up on taxes altogether.

Yet I’ve never heard an MMTer express support for even a one-year moratorium on taxes to stimulate a bad economy (after a shock such as a worldwide covid pandemic). Why is this? If inflation really is so low, with the economy struggling in postcovid recovery mode, why pull any money back into federal coffers? Just damn the torpedoes! The bigger the deficit, the more “private wealth” we all have! Perhaps there is a political element to all the MMT jargon after all, one which relies on taxes both for control over people and to advance an advantageous but hollow trope about taxing the rich.

Federal income taxes have always been a tool for compliance. The IRS has always been a tool for presidents to go after rivals—or for rivals to go after presidents. Why would we expect otherwise?

1.See Dr. Robert P. Murphy’s definitive critique of MMT and Professor Stephanie Kelton’s book here.

Jeff Deist [send him mail] is president of the Mises Institute, a tax attorney, and a former staffer for Ron Paul.

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As Democrats Push a “Wealth Tax,” Here’s Why Other Countries Got Rid Of It | Mises Institute

Posted by M. C. on June 27, 2019

https://mises.org/power-market/democrats-push-wealth-tax-heres-why-other-countries-got-rid-it

Daniel J. Mitchell

…Another guilt-ridden rich guy wrote for the New York Times that he wants the government to have more of his money.

My parents watched me build two Fortune 500 companies and become one of the wealthiest people in the country. …It’s time to start talking seriously about a wealth tax. …Don’t get me wrong: I am not advocating an end to the capitalist system that’s yielded some of the greatest gains in prosperity and innovation in human history. I simply believe it’s time for those of us with great wealth to commit to reducing income inequality, starting with the demand to be taxed at a higher rate than everyone else. …let’s end this tired argument that we must delay fixing structural inequities until our government is running as efficiently as the most profitable companies. …we can’t waste any more time tinkering around the edges. …A wealth tax can start to address the economic inequality eroding the soul of our country’s strength. I can afford to pay more, and I know others can too.

When reading this kind of nonsense, my initial instinct is to tell this kind of person to go ahead and write a big check to the IRS (or, better yet, send the money to me as a personal form of redistribution to the less fortunate). After all, if he really thinks he shouldn’t have so much wealth, he should put his money where his mouth is.

But rich leftists like Elizabeth Warren don’t do this, and I’m guessing the author of the NYT column won’t, either. At least if the actions of other rich leftists are any guide.

But I don’t want to focus on hypocrisy.

Today’s column is about the destructive economics of wealth taxation.

report from the Mercatus Center makes a very important point about how a wealth tax is really a tax on the creation of new wealth.

Wealth taxes have been historically plagued by “ultra-millionaire” mobility. …The Ultra-Millionaire Tax, therefore, contains “strong anti-evasion measures” like a 40 percent exit tax on any targeted household that attempts to emigrate, minimum audit rates, and increased funding for IRS enforcement. …Sen. Warren’s wealth tax would target the…households that met the threshold—around 75,000—would be required to value all of their assets, which would then be subject to a two or three percent tax every year. Sen. Warren’s team estimates that all of this would bring $2.75 trillion to the federal treasury over ten years… a wealth tax would almost certainly be anti-growth. …A wealth tax might not cause economic indicators to tumble immediately, but the American economy would eventually become less dynamic and competitive… If a household’s wealth grows at a normal rate—say, five percent—then the three percent annual tax on wealth would amount to a 60 percent tax on net wealth added.

Alan Viard of the American Enterprise Institute makes the same point in a columnfor the Hill.

Wealth taxes operate differently from income taxes because the same stock of money is taxed repeatedly year after year. …Under a 2 percent wealth tax, an investor pays taxes each year equal to 2 percent of his or her net worth, but in the end pays taxes each decade equal to a full 20 percent of his or her net worth. …Consider a taxpayer who holds a long term bond with a fixed interest rate of 3 percent each year. Because a 2 percent wealth tax captures 67 percent of the interest income of the bondholder makes each year, it is essentially identical to a 67 percent income tax. The proposed tax raises the same revenue and has the same economic effects, whether it is called a 2 percent wealth tax or a 67 percent income tax. …The 3 percent wealth tax that Warren has proposed for billionaires is still higher, equivalent to a 100 percent income tax rate in this example. The total tax burden is even greater because the wealth tax would be imposed on top of the 37 percent income tax rate. …Although the wealth tax would be less burdensome in years with high returns, it would be more burdensome in years with low or negative returns. …high rates make the tax a drain on the pool of American savings. That effect is troubling because savings finance the business investment that in turn drives future growth of the economy and living standards of workers.

Alan is absolutely correct (I made the same point back in 2012).

Taxing wealth is the same as taxing saving and investment (actually, it’s the same as triple- or quadruple-taxing saving and investment). And that’s bad for competitiveness, growth, and wages.

And the implicit marginal tax rate on saving and investment can be extremely punitive. Between 67 percent and 100 percent in Alan’s examples. And that’s in addition to regular income tax rates.

You don’t have to be a wild-eyed supply-side economist to recognize that this is crazy.

Which is one of the reasons why other nations have been repealing this class-warfare levy.

Here’s a chart from the Tax Foundation showing the number of developed nations with wealth taxes from1965-present.

Jun-25-19-Tax-Foundation-Chart.jpg

 

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Amazon Hits Back Against Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Posted by M. C. on June 18, 2019

https://www.economicpolicyjournal.com/2019/06/amazon-hits-back-against-alexandria.html?m=1

by Robert Wenzell

During an interview on ABC News’ “This Week” on Sunday, the socialist congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez charged that Amazon was paying its workers “starvation wages.”

“I spend less time thinking about [Amazon CEO and founder] Jeff Bezos and more time thinking about Amazon warehouse workers,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “I think about the outcomes I want for those folks. Whether Jeff Bezos is a billionaire or not is less of my concern than if your average Amazon worker is making a living wage, if they have guaranteed health care and if they can send their kids to college tuition-free.”

“And if that’s the case,” she added, “and Jeff Bezos is still a billionaire — that’s one thing. But if his being a billionaire is predicated on paying people starvation wages and stripping them of their ability to access health care, and also if his ability to be a billionaire is predicated on the fact that his workers take food stamps so I’m paying for him to be a billionaire… I think it’s certainly a part of the equation when you have a very large workforce and you underpay every single person.”

In other words, AOC continues her hate of capitalism and promotion of the Marxist theme of the exploitation of workers, even though present-day workers in the capitalist United States have a standard of living that is among the highest in the history of man.

Amazon responded with a weak statement:

These allegations are absurd. Amazon associates receive industry-leading pay starting at $15 an hour — in fact, hourly associates at our Staten Island facility earn between $17.30 and $23 an hour, plus benefits which include comprehensive medical, dental and vision insurance. On top of these benefits, Amazon pre-pays 95% of continuing education tuition costs through its Career Choice program for associates who want to pursue in-demand careers.

The company should have added:

What we pay workers is extremely competitive in every region where we employ workers, otherwise, workers wouldn’t work for us.

It is simply the height of illogic for AOC to promote the idea that the 657,000 employees of Amazon are not aware of what their alternatives are and it is an insult for AOC to promote the idea that the marginal revenue product of American workers is so low that they are “starving.” This type of perspective is nothing but capitalist hate fueled by a fundamental lack of understanding of basic economics and how an economy functions. If she really wanted to help low-level workers she should call for the immediate end of income taxes and payroll taxes for amnyone earning under $51, 999 per year. Those taxes are coercion enforced by the gun, something we would never practice at Amazon.

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Top 3% of U.S. Taxpayers Paid Majority of Income Taxes in 2016

Posted by M. C. on October 15, 2018

Pareto’s Law in action

Proof from Bloomberg of all people!

https://www.bloombergquint.com/global-economics/top-3-of-u-s-taxpayers-paid-majority-of-income-taxes-in-2016#gs.mxlXG6E

Alex Tanzi

Bloomberg looked into the 2016 individual returns data in detail for some additional insights illustrated in the charts below:

  • The top 1 percent paid a greater share of individual income taxes (37.3 percent) than the bottom 90 percent combined (30.5 percent).
  • The top 50 percent of all taxpayers paid 97 percent of total individual income taxes.
  • In other words, the bottom 50 percent paid 3 percent. Which small percentile of tax payers also paid 3 percent or more? You might have guessed it. It is the top 0.001%, or about 1,400 taxpayers. That group alone paid 3.25 percent of all income taxes. In 2001, the bottom 50 percent paid nearly 5 percent whereas the top 0.001 percent of filers paid 2.3 percent of income taxes….

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tax crime

Change that to ANY TAX.

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