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Abolish the IRS

Scott Wagner | Tuesday, November 8, 2005

Since 1954, the size of the United States’ tax code has increased by almost 500 percent. Tax regulations created by the Internal Revenue Service have increased in volume by 939 percent, and in April 2006, Americans will spend a combined total of 6.5 billion hours, at an estimated cost of close to $500 billion, in order to simply pay for the privilege of footing Washington’s bill.

It is time for the FairTax.

Perhaps you have heard of the FairTax by now. It is a comprehensive plan for the dissolution of the IRS that would replace all income taxes with an embedded personal consumption tax. According to the website of Americans for Fair Taxation (www.fairtax.org), the FairTax would abolish “personal, estate, gift, capital gains, alternative minimum, Social Security, Medicare, self-employment and corporate taxes.” In their stead would be a 23 percent national sales tax on all consumption goods: a simple, one-time tax that is collected at the retail level.

However, the FairTax is unlike the current sales taxes that exist in this country. These taxes are imposed on top of embedded income tax and compliance costs. In the FairTax Book, written by libertarian radio personality Neal Boortz and Congressman John Linder, a loaf of bread is used as an example to illustrate these hidden costs. For every loaf of bread, the seed producers pass tax costs onto consumers. The shipping company does too. In fact, processors, bakeries, distributors and grocery stores all pass a portion of their income tax burdens onto consumers, no matter how rich or poor they are. Eliminating these costs initially, by eliminating the income tax altogether, would reduce the market price of all products by an average of 22 percent.

Don’t take my word for it, though. Take the word of the Harvard Economics Department.

So when these costs are abolished, the FairTax is added and returns the prices of consumption goods to – you guessed it – exactly where they are today. The difference is, of course, that people who are purchasing these things keep every last penny of their paychecks. For low-income families, this would mean an immediate average increase in pay of 25-30 percent.

If you are trying to think of ways in which to oppose this plan, I need to know one thing: why?

The federal government would still steal – I mean, collect – the same amount of tax revenue as it does today under the FairTax. The FairTax does not cut funding from any cherished socialist programs like welfare or Social Security. It is merely a new way for the federal government to pay for its existence.

But wait, it gets better. The FairTax Act of 2005 (yes, it has already been written and is ready to be passed) also contains mechanisms for a “prebate.” Based on government figures, the federal government would calculate the “annual consumption allowance” of a household – that is, the amount of money that household can be expected to spend on the necessities of life for that year – and refunds the money. Every household in America gets a tax refund, every year.

In case you had not noticed, wealthy individuals tend to spend more money than poor individuals on consumption goods; thus, the wealthy would end up paying more in taxes than the poor. Most people seem to like this idea.

Finally, the economic impact would be astounding. Driven by the “increasing burden of taxation and Social Security payments, combined with rising state regulatory activities and labor market restrictions,” American businesses have been seeking out “tax havens” in other countries with much friendlier tax structures. The media buzzword for this phenomenon is “outsourcing,” and believe it or not, our government has been causing it all along.

Passing the FairTax Act would make the United States the “only nation in the world whose companies could sell into a global economy with no tax component in the price system.” Companies would rush to bring jobs back to the United States, and their American workers would keep all of the money they earn.

The FairTax is a typical libertarian solution to a greater social problem. Instead of promising more regulations, like many Republicrats typically do, we reduce them. It is a novel concept, I know. The results would be revolutionary.

The FairTax is not a panacea. It does not lower taxes, and it does nothing to curb the spending orgy the Republicrats have been having in Washington. It does not stop pork barrel spending, nor does it re-evaluate how federal money is spent. The responsibility for affecting change in those areas falls squarely on us, as voters.

However, the FairTax would be an enormous stake in the heart of the monstrosity that is the IRS. The thought is enough to make any libertarian smile happily and sleep better at night.

We need the FairTax now.

Scott Wagner is the president of the College Libertarians Club. He writes political satire for the Web site The Enduring Vision and thinks you should go read it. He can be contacted at swagner1@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.