Fair Not Flat: How to Make the Tax System Better and Simpler

By Edward J. McCaffery | Go to book overview

THREE
The Case for a Spending Tax

As never before, the U.S. income tax system is under attack.
Almost no one seems satisfied with the way it works, com-
plaining that it is overly complex, unfair, and inhibits economic
growth. In spite of this widespread dissatisfaction, what ex-
actly should be done about it commands much less agree-
ment.

—Joel Slemrod and Jon Bakija, Taxing Ourselves: A Citizen's
Guide to the Great Debate over Tax Reform

WE HAVE SEEN THAT A CONSISTENT INCOME TAX IS A BAD idea in theory. Further, an inconsistent income tax is a horrible reality. We should drop the foolish attempt to tax savings directly, and adopt a consistent consumption tax.

We are almost ready to grasp the argument for moving to a quite particular alternative, a consistent, progressive, postpaid consumption, or spending, tax. But on the way to recommending this Fair Not Flat Tax, I will add a final—and hopefully clinching—argument to the general case for consumption taxes: They're what everybody seems to want.

This is hardly obvious at first. Anyone listening to the calls for tax reform in postmillennial America might think that they are all just so much noise. Everybody hates the income tax. Almost everybody hates the 1RS. But beyond these obvious truths, it is hard to say much about what the public thinks. Everyone seems to have a more or less realistic plan for fixing the mess we're in. Politicians

-45-

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Fair Not Flat: How to Make the Tax System Better and Simpler
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Tables and Figures ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction - Time for a Change 1
  • One - Tax Basics 9
  • Two - The Trouble with the Income Tax 27
  • Three - The Case for a Spending Tax 45
  • Four - Death to Death Taxes 62
  • Five - Progressivity Can Live 78
  • Six - The Fair Not Flat Tax 97
  • Conclusion - Toward Glass Teamwork, Not Glass Conflict 112
  • Questions and Comments on the Fair Not Flat Tax 117
  • Glossary of Key Terms 161
  • Further Reading 167
  • Index 171
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