Categories
Taxation

Ten principles of sound tax policy

The Tax Foundation’s Ten principles of sound tax policy are a must-read for those influencing tax policy. I think the list can be further refined down to about half that, but maybe they wanted to get an even ten.

For instance, maintaining the neutrality of the system (#2) will result in broad bases (#3). It’s when the system gets less neutral (i.e. favours certain groups or behaviours) that the base is narrowed. Various special interest deductions put in place to encourage desirable behaviour or punish undesirable behaviour have narrowed the base and caused rates to be kept high unnecessarily.

Harmonization of federal, state/province and local/municipal taxes (#10) is part and parcel with creating a simple tax system (#4). The provincial government has been criticized recently about its reluctance to harmonize Ontario’s sales tax with the Federal GST. The premier’s misguided reasoning for the reluctance? It would place a tax on certain exempt items, thus eliminating some of the complexity and non-neutrality in the tax.

Tax stability (#5) is important because it makes them predictable, which is also aided when there is no retroactivity (#6). When politicians can make changes to taxes retroactive, tax is not predictable. The Canadian government announced recently the retroactive increase in the Basic Personal tax credit. You’re unlikely to hear anyone complain about this, but nonetheless it isn’t ideal tax policy.

Transparency (#1) is important no matter what government initiative we’re talking about, and an open process (#9) is one manifestation of this requirement. All the workings of a democratic government must be open to its citizens and open to criticism and debate. Tax is no different from anything else in this respect.

So I humbly put forward my own principles of sound tax policy: simplicity, neutrality, transparency, and predictability. I think that basically covers it at a more abstract level than the Tax Foundation’s ten.

Categories
Taxation

New Jersey legislates tax on iTunes downloads

iTunes logoNew Jersey residents have been hit by their government with a 7% tax on iTunes downloads (as well as other music download services such as Napster) this past week.

The sales tax overall was raised from 6 to 7% in order to help the state fight their $4.5-billion deficit.

Many are speculating that other states will follow New Jersey’s lead and introduce their own sales tax on music and movies downloads.

I guess I don’t really see anything really wrong with this. I have never bought music from iTunes. And there’s really no good reason not to tax it like anything else, other than just not liking taxes in general.

At least the people the Governor is pissing off with this move is bound to be primarily from a demographic that is known for not voting.

[Via taxalicious, via CNET News.blog]

Categories
Taxation

Bank of Canada chief pushes smarter provincial sales tax

David Dodge, the governor of the Bank of Canada and the current architect of our monetary policy, suggested the province of Ontario should revamp the provincial sales tax (PST) to more closely resemble the value-added federal GST in a rare appearance before the Commons industry committee.

The suggestion is a solid one, as it would allow producers some relief from their tax burden and still tax ultimate consumption by end users. The GST is an interesting tax in that producers deduct the GST they pay on inputs from the GST they collect on outputs, hence they are only taxed on the value they add to their product. Turning Ontario’s 8% PST into a value-added tax would help producers compete in the global economy.