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Alone among developed countries, the United States has no broad-based national consumption tax. Yet, economic analysis suggests that consumption taxation is superior to income taxation because it does not penalize saving and investment. The authors conclude that the U.S. income tax system should be completely replaced by a progressive consumption tax.
The authors argue that the X tax, developed by the late David Bradford, offers the best form of progressive consumption taxation for the United States. To achieve progressively, the X tax modifies the value added tax by splitting its consumption tax base into two components, wages and business cash flow. The X tax applies graduated tax rates to households’ wages and applies a flat tax rate, equal to the highest wage tax rate, to business firms’ cash flows. The authors outline concrete proposals for the X tax’s treatment of pensions and fringe benefits, business firms, financial intermediaries, international transactions, owner-occupied housing, state and local governments, the transition, and other issues.
By adopting the X tax, the United States can preserve tax progressively while promoting economic growth through the removal of tax penalties on saving and investment.
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Alan D. Viard is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
Robert Carroll is vice president for economic policy at the Tax Foundation and co-director of the Center for Public Finance and Research at American University.
Progressive Consumption Taxation carefully lays out the rationale for adopting a progressive consumption tax system in the United States and shows how such a system can be adopted. Carroll and Viard provide the motivating ‘big picture’ arguments but also tackle the many thorny details that confront this tax reform, including the appropriate treatment of financial intermediaries, international transactions, and transition from the income tax. The book is accessible to those with a policy interest, but it will also enlighten tax experts. (Alan J. Auerbach, University of California, Berkeley)
Although consumption-type taxes like the Flat Tax and FairTax are beloved by GOP presidential candidates, they have never won political traction because they are widely perceived as unfair. Bob Carroll and Alan Viard take fairness considerations seriously and explain how a modern version of the X Tax could address them while preserving the efficiency advantages of a consumption tax. The book provides a comprehensive and accessible analysis of progressive consumption taxation and should be on the reading list of anyone interested in fundamental tax reform. (Leonard E. Burman, Syracuse University and the Urban Institute)
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