Every year, I do an annual column on taxes. It is a little later this year than last year and all I can say in my defense is that I filed an extension and that Austin is in the hurricane affected areas (at least according to the IRS).
I have a surefire way for taxes to be reduced. Republicans claim to be for low taxes. Democrats should be. Do Democrats really want Republicans to spend more than $2 trillion every year that they are in power on their own things?
Here’s the three point plan:
1. Express tax owed as a percent of the dollar you get to keep as opposed to the last dollar of “gross” income. I put gross in quotes because for most people everything beyond net goes straight to the Government in the form of payroll deductions. In my book, if you don’t get it, it’s not income.
In the top tax bracket (ignoring various phaseouts), if you take home $0.65, you pay $0.35 in income taxes for the privilege. That’s a 54% tax rate if you look at it like sales tax. If you add in medicare, it’s a 57% tax rate. You and your employer pay $36.45 for you to take home $63.55.
Government expenditure can be reported as 25% of private GDP instead of 20% of the economy.
Living in a city where more than 50% of property taxes leave the jurisdiction, I can say from experience that people get real mad when more than 50% of anything is going away (or more than 100% of what stays in the district). Framing it that way will reduce taxes.
2. Report employer “contributions” toward social security and medicare as a percent of net take home pay and lump it together as a sum. Paying 16.6% of take home pay seems more like a crisis than 6.2% and 1.45% of “your share”. I put “contributions” and “your share” in quotes because an employer considers the entire cost of an employee. If that money was not paid as taxes, that could be paid as salary and the employer would still be hiring.
3. Have all people file quarterly tax returns and write a check for their taxes. Dick Thaler has done research showing that the more often people consider their st0ck market portfolio, the more unhappy they become even if the daily fluctuations even out and people make a bundle. They turn out to be extra sensitive to small losses and become more unhappy frequently they consider them.
This can be turned to advantage for tax cutters if people are forced to consider the burden of taxes more than once a year. If instead of direct payroll deductions, taxes were put in a notional federal checking account and taxpayers had to write a big check every quarter instead of be pleasantly surprised by a small refund, we would see a lot of unhappy people.