What should Greece tax?

What can you tax in a populace that distrusts government (as our Founders intended) but then goes overboard, and undermines it?  That is, what can government find and measure, in such a way that the public can trust that the tax is being paid?

Some countries, like Finland, go so far as to publish income tax payments, which are posted online by newspapers. That’s transparent.

Our standard local property tax can be pretty transparent. The tax value of property in many states is a matter of public record, and on the internet. Folks who don’t pay get their names put in the paper, and maybe their property sold at auction. There is the possibility that some government official is colluding with taxpayers to undervalue property, or count phantom payments, bills, but that seems like a minor worry in the United States. I feel like property tax corruption is not a huge problem.

Payments of cannabis taxes in Washington State are on the public record. The public won’t know exactly what tax should be due, but observation could detect order-of-magnitude underpayment.

In Humboldt County, California, some cannabis growers are suggesting they pay tax on square feet of  grow area – “entire area of canopy at its largest size at any time during the year.” Much outdoor space is more or less detectable on google earth. So that tax could be transparent – but with growing still illegal under federal law, it’s not clear that Humboldt will follow Washington State’s lead about publication.

 

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Author: patoglesby

From 1982 to 1990, I worked in tax policy for Committees of the United States Congress. In recent years, I was Adjunct Lecturer at UNC-Chapel Hill's Business School and then Adjunct Professor at its Law School.

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