VAT attack

Beware: ‘Value-added tax’ is an economy-killer

Daniel J. Mitchell
The New York Post
4/8/2010

One of President Obama’s top economic advisers, former Fed chief Paul Volcker, suggested this week that it’s time for America to adopt a VAT, or value-added tax. The White House yesterday downplayed the idea — but it’s sure to resurface: It’s an inevitable consequence of a government that’s too big now and likely to grow even bigger thanks to Washington’s reckless spending spree.

Don’t get me wrong: The VAT — on top of all the other taxes Washington imposes — is a terrible idea. Imposing it would pretty well finish the transformation of our country into a European-style slow-growth nation. The right way to close Uncle Sam’s gaping deficits is to reverse the continued explosion of federal spending.

The VAT is a type of national sales tax, levied on the value-added at each stage of production. Consider a piece of furniture: The VAT would be imposed when the raw timber is sold, when the sawmill produces lumber, when the manufacturer builds a chair, a tax at the wholesaler level and then when a retailer sells the chair to a consumer.

To avoid double taxation, each seller along the way gets a credit for taxes paid at earlier stages of the production process. So the final tax to the consumer, at least in theory, is the same as a retail sales tax of the same amount.

The VAT has its virtues: As a single-rate, consumption-based system, much like the flat tax or national sales tax, it would introduce far fewer economic distortions than today’s income tax — and a heckuva lot less paperwork.

That would be a persuasive argument — if proponents wanted a VAT to replace the Internal Revenue code. But that’s not what’s intended by Volcker — or Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who’ve also been chatting up the VAT.

Read the rest of the article at the New York Post.

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