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.
“Licenses are also highly flexible when compared to sales or excise taxes because as long as they reflect the reasonable costs of state regulation—including the costs of protecting against a vast array of externalities like public safety, hospital visits, drug rehabilitation, education, and increased administrative costs—they can be imposed by local and state governments without voter or legislative approval.” — Stanford paper.
Lots on discussion of agencies. One option is have someone like Pierre duPont did for Delaware right after Prohibition — a One-Person Commissioner, not a Commission. And for putting that office on the ballot, with an extremely short term.
In Gulliver’s Travels, we see this, as a contrast to Vice taxes: Tax envy-producing qualities, as reported and assessed by the taxpayer himself. For example, the “highest Tax was upon Men who are the greatest Favourites of the other Sex, and the Assessments, according to the Number and Nature of the Favours they have received; for which, they are allowed to be their own Vouchers.” Call it the “Swaggering Stud” tax.
I heard a very warm debate between two professors, about the most commodious and effectual ways and means of raising money, without grieving the subject. The first affirmed, “the justest method would be, to lay a certain tax upon vices and folly; and the sum fixed upon every man to be rated, after the fairest manner, by a jury of his neighbours.” The second was of an opinion directly contrary; “to tax those qualities of body and mind, for which men chiefly value themselves; the rate to be more or less, according to the degrees of excelling; the decision whereof should be left entirely to their own breast.” The highest tax was upon men who are the greatest favourites of the other sex, Continue reading “Gulliver’s Taxes”