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Wealth tax academic paper

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Re: Wealth tax academic paper

#377498

Postby gryffron » January 15th, 2021, 2:10 pm

Moderator Message:
Please Note:
This thread is for discussion of Wealth taxes or alternative tax rises that may be implemented.
I have separated the discussions on the meaning of money and debt into their own thread.
Gryffron

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Re: Wealth tax academic paper

#418288

Postby Steveam » June 9th, 2021, 7:33 am

https://www.propublica.org/article/the- ... pockethits

This article just puts some flesh on the bones of how assets are not taxed and the ultra wealthy can minimise income tax (basically have a low income and/or borrow against assets). Wealth taxes may not be the answer but the current policies and implementations are leading to a greater concentration of wealth.

Best wishes,

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Re: Wealth tax academic paper

#418292

Postby Lootman » June 9th, 2021, 8:11 am

Steveam wrote:https://www.propublica.org/article/the-secret-irs-files-trove-of-never-before-seen-records-reveal-how-the-wealthiest-avoid-income-tax?utm_source=pocket&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=pockethits

This article just puts some flesh on the bones of how assets are not taxed and the ultra wealthy can minimise income tax (basically have a low income and/or borrow against assets). Wealth taxes may not be the answer but the current policies and implementations are leading to a greater concentration of wealth.

The article contains a large flaw. It attempts to compute an "effective tax rate" by dividing the actual tax paid by the increase in wealth for that year. But nobody calculates tax that way, and certainly does not levy tax that way. Much of those gains in wealth are increases in unrealised capital gains. Individuals are not taxed that way so it misleading to include such gains in the computations.

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Re: Wealth tax academic paper

#418322

Postby XFool » June 9th, 2021, 10:51 am

Caveat: I have not as yet read the paper. :)

Lootman wrote:
Steveam wrote:https://www.propublica.org/article/the-secret-irs-files-trove-of-never-before-seen-records-reveal-how-the-wealthiest-avoid-income-tax?utm_source=pocket&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=pockethits

This article just puts some flesh on the bones of how assets are not taxed and the ultra wealthy can minimise income tax (basically have a low income and/or borrow against assets). Wealth taxes may not be the answer but the current policies and implementations are leading to a greater concentration of wealth.

The article contains a large flaw. It attempts to compute an "effective tax rate" by dividing the actual tax paid by the increase in wealth for that year. But nobody calculates tax that way, and certainly does not levy tax that way. Much of those gains in wealth are increases in unrealised capital gains. Individuals are not taxed that way so it misleading to include such gains in the computations.

I would have thought, reading the comment about the paper, that is hardly a "large flaw" - as it sounds likely to me to be the whole point the article is making!

"nobody calculates tax that way, and certainly does not levy tax that way"

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Re: Wealth tax academic paper

#418331

Postby Lootman » June 9th, 2021, 11:27 am

XFool wrote:Caveat: I have not as yet read the paper. :)

Lootman wrote:
Steveam wrote:https://www.propublica.org/article/the-secret-irs-files-trove-of-never-before-seen-records-reveal-how-the-wealthiest-avoid-income-tax?utm_source=pocket&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=pockethits

This article just puts some flesh on the bones of how assets are not taxed and the ultra wealthy can minimise income tax (basically have a low income and/or borrow against assets). Wealth taxes may not be the answer but the current policies and implementations are leading to a greater concentration of wealth.

The article contains a large flaw. It attempts to compute an "effective tax rate" by dividing the actual tax paid by the increase in wealth for that year. But nobody calculates tax that way, and certainly does not levy tax that way. Much of those gains in wealth are increases in unrealised capital gains. Individuals are not taxed that way so it misleading to include such gains in the computations.

I would have thought, reading the comment about the paper, that is hardly a "large flaw" - as it sounds likely to me to be the whole point the article is making!

"nobody calculates tax that way, and certainly does not levy tax that way"

I was not suggesting that it is a flaw to consider a wealth tax. And of course some forms of a wealth tax would effectively be a tax on unrealised gains because it would be a tax on the valuation of assets.

What I think is a flaw is to suggest that the current tax rate that some wealthy people pay is 3% or 4%. That is highly misleading. It would be like including any theoretical increase in the value of your home into your tax divisor.

Of course if someone believes that unrealised capital gains should be taxed then that could happen without a wealth tax. Just mark-to-market the value of your investments and properties each year. That is how trading desks are taxed in various countries, although I am not aware that any major nation taxes individuals in that way. It would lead to some very odd outcomes: For example in a year where homes go down in value, do you get a tax refund? There are good reasons why we do not tax people in such ways.

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Re: Wealth tax academic paper

#418336

Postby XFool » June 9th, 2021, 11:40 am

...I didn't like the way the article described their version as "The real tax rate". It simply being the rate using their method of taxation. The historical background was interesting.

The issue with falling asset values in a year occurred to me. Obviously there are various possible solutions: a combined yearly Income & Capital Increase/(Decrease) taxation rate. Or a separate fixed small yearly taxation rate on absolute capital value.

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Re: Wealth tax academic paper

#418362

Postby Lootman » June 9th, 2021, 12:21 pm

XFool wrote:...I didn't like the way the article described their version as "The real tax rate". It simply being the rate using their method of taxation.

Yes, it is rather dishonest to perform the computation in a way that makes it look like the wealthy are hardly taxed at all. Conversely one could look at the situation in the manner which I saw represented a little while ago somewhere: Apparently the richest 2% pay over half of all taxes!

Tax rates depend at least partly on the gross amount of public spending. It might be fairer instead to look at how the tax take is split between different demographics and income/wealth bands. I suspect there is a good chance that the bottom one third pay no taxes. And ultimately only people with surplus funds can afford to pay taxes at all.

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Re: Wealth tax academic paper

#418387

Postby XFool » June 9th, 2021, 1:41 pm

Lootman wrote:I suspect there is a good chance that the bottom one third pay no taxes. And ultimately only people with surplus funds can afford to pay taxes at all.

Surely not true? Possibly true wrt income taxes, but everyone presumably has to pay VAT, one way or another.

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Re: Wealth tax academic paper

#418390

Postby SteMiS » June 9th, 2021, 1:45 pm

Lootman wrote:
XFool wrote:...I didn't like the way the article described their version as "The real tax rate". It simply being the rate using their method of taxation.

Yes, it is rather dishonest to perform the computation in a way that makes it look like the wealthy are hardly taxed at all. Conversely one could look at the situation in the manner which I saw represented a little while ago somewhere: Apparently the richest 2% pay over half of all taxes!

Tax rates depend at least partly on the gross amount of public spending. It might be fairer instead to look at how the tax take is split between different demographics and income/wealth bands. I suspect there is a good chance that the bottom one third pay no taxes. And ultimately only people with surplus funds can afford to pay taxes at all.

I presume you are referring to 'income tax' not 'tax in general' (which everyone pays)...

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Re: Wealth tax academic paper

#418396

Postby Lootman » June 9th, 2021, 2:03 pm

XFool wrote:
Lootman wrote:I suspect there is a good chance that the bottom one third pay no taxes. And ultimately only people with surplus funds can afford to pay taxes at all.

Surely not true? Possibly true wrt income taxes, but everyone presumably has to pay VAT, one way or another.

SteMiS wrote:I presume you are referring to 'income tax' not 'tax in general' (which everyone pays)...

Many taxes (in general) are only paid by the well off e.g. CGT and IHT (not that IHT only affects the wealthy by any means). With most other taxes the wealthier will pay more even if not at a higher rate. The only true "flat" tax we have is something like the TV license fee.

I suppose one can argue that even dirt poor people pay VAT and council tax. Although I would wager that for many of them, those tax contributions are low and in any event paid for by benefits and welfare, which one might reasonably regard as tax credits or negative taxes.

If someone can cite a better number than the richest 2% pay over 50% of taxes, then I would like to see a link for that.

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Re: Wealth tax academic paper

#418417

Postby SteMiS » June 9th, 2021, 4:38 pm

Lootman wrote:
XFool wrote:
Lootman wrote:I suspect there is a good chance that the bottom one third pay no taxes. And ultimately only people with surplus funds can afford to pay taxes at all.

Surely not true? Possibly true wrt income taxes, but everyone presumably has to pay VAT, one way or another.

SteMiS wrote:I presume you are referring to 'income tax' not 'tax in general' (which everyone pays)...

Many taxes (in general) are only paid by the well off e.g. CGT and IHT (not that IHT only affects the wealthy by any means). With most other taxes the wealthier will pay more even if not at a higher rate. The only true "flat" tax we have is something like the TV license fee.

I suppose one can argue that even dirt poor people pay VAT and council tax. Although I would wager that for many of them, those tax contributions are low and in any event paid for by benefits and welfare, which one might reasonably regard as tax credits or negative taxes.

If someone can cite a better number than the richest 2% pay over 50% of taxes, then I would like to see a link for that.

I don't really want to divert the discussion but actually VAT and council tax hit the poor much harder than the rich and there's good evidence that the percentage of tax paid by different income quartiles is remarkably similar

Image
https://www.resolutionfoundation.org/co ... e-richest/

[As the link describes, one has to take the figures for the very poorest with some caution as, for various reasons, there's a mismatch between declared income and declared expenditure of this section of the population]

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Re: Wealth tax academic paper

#418435

Postby Lootman » June 9th, 2021, 5:16 pm

SteMiS wrote:
Lootman wrote:
XFool wrote:Surely not true? Possibly true wrt income taxes, but everyone presumably has to pay VAT, one way or another.

SteMiS wrote:I presume you are referring to 'income tax' not 'tax in general' (which everyone pays)...

Many taxes (in general) are only paid by the well off e.g. CGT and IHT (not that IHT only affects the wealthy by any means). With most other taxes the wealthier will pay more even if not at a higher rate. The only true "flat" tax we have is something like the TV license fee.

I suppose one can argue that even dirt poor people pay VAT and council tax. Although I would wager that for many of them, those tax contributions are low and in any event paid for by benefits and welfare, which one might reasonably regard as tax credits or negative taxes.

If someone can cite a better number than the richest 2% pay over 50% of taxes, then I would like to see a link for that.

I don't really want to divert the discussion but actually VAT and council tax hit the poor much harder than the rich and there's good evidence that the percentage of tax paid by different income quartiles is remarkably similar

[As the link describes, one has to take the figures for the very poorest with some caution as, for various reasons, there's a mismatch between declared income and declared expenditure of this section of the population]

Yes but again it shows how very different results can be derived depending on how you represent the data. So if I want to show how little tax the wealthy pay, then I show tax as a percentage rate of income/wealth, and then invite people to conclude that taxation is not really that progressive. On the other hand if I want to show how much tax the wealthy pay, then I show data showing the actual amount of tax paid by that very small percentage of the population, thereby demonstrating what a huge part of the total burden they bear. Fun with statistics.

Everyone in this game has an agenda. But for the record I think that everyone should pay at least some tax, because otherwise they are tempted to always vote for higher taxes (on everyone else).

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Re: Wealth tax academic paper

#418443

Postby SteMiS » June 9th, 2021, 5:36 pm

Lootman wrote:
SteMiS wrote:
Lootman wrote:
Many taxes (in general) are only paid by the well off e.g. CGT and IHT (not that IHT only affects the wealthy by any means). With most other taxes the wealthier will pay more even if not at a higher rate. The only true "flat" tax we have is something like the TV license fee.

I suppose one can argue that even dirt poor people pay VAT and council tax. Although I would wager that for many of them, those tax contributions are low and in any event paid for by benefits and welfare, which one might reasonably regard as tax credits or negative taxes.

If someone can cite a better number than the richest 2% pay over 50% of taxes, then I would like to see a link for that.

I don't really want to divert the discussion but actually VAT and council tax hit the poor much harder than the rich and there's good evidence that the percentage of tax paid by different income quartiles is remarkably similar

[As the link describes, one has to take the figures for the very poorest with some caution as, for various reasons, there's a mismatch between declared income and declared expenditure of this section of the population]

Yes but again it shows how very different results can be derived depending on how you represent the data. So if I want to show how little tax the wealthy pay, then I show tax as a percentage rate of income/wealth, and then invite people to conclude that taxation is not really that progressive. On the other hand if I want to show how much tax the wealthy pay, then I show data showing the actual amount of tax paid by that very small percentage of the population, thereby demonstrating what a huge part of the total burden they bear. Fun with statistics.

Everyone in this game has an agenda. But for the record I think that everyone should pay at least some tax, because otherwise they are tempted to always vote for higher taxes (on everyone else).

I think the point is that pretty much everyone pays tax (even if you live off savings and have no 'income').

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Re: Wealth tax academic paper

#418445

Postby Lootman » June 9th, 2021, 5:44 pm

SteMiS wrote:
Lootman wrote:
SteMiS wrote:I don't really want to divert the discussion but actually VAT and council tax hit the poor much harder than the rich and there's good evidence that the percentage of tax paid by different income quartiles is remarkably similar

[As the link describes, one has to take the figures for the very poorest with some caution as, for various reasons, there's a mismatch between declared income and declared expenditure of this section of the population]

Yes but again it shows how very different results can be derived depending on how you represent the data. So if I want to show how little tax the wealthy pay, then I show tax as a percentage rate of income/wealth, and then invite people to conclude that taxation is not really that progressive. On the other hand if I want to show how much tax the wealthy pay, then I show data showing the actual amount of tax paid by that very small percentage of the population, thereby demonstrating what a huge part of the total burden they bear. Fun with statistics.

Everyone in this game has an agenda. But for the record I think that everyone should pay at least some tax, because otherwise they are tempted to always vote for higher taxes (on everyone else).

I think the point is that pretty much everyone pays tax (even if you live off savings and have no 'income').

Possibly but again it depends how you show the data. To my mind if someone receives more in welfare than they pay in tax, then there is a very real sense in which "they pay no tax". They are not part of funding the government but rather are a net liability.

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Re: Wealth tax academic paper

#418489

Postby quelquod » June 9th, 2021, 10:38 pm

Lootman wrote:
SteMiS wrote:I think the point is that pretty much everyone pays tax (even if you live off savings and have no 'income').

Possibly but again it depends how you show the data. To my mind if someone receives more in welfare than they pay in tax, then there is a very real sense in which "they pay no tax". They are not part of funding the government but rather are a net liability.


Perhaps you’d then consider that everyone paid from the public purse pays no tax - NHS staff, civil servants, MPs even and the rest. Goodness, no wonder I seem to be carrying a burden!

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Re: Wealth tax academic paper

#418521

Postby Lootman » June 10th, 2021, 7:22 am

quelquod wrote:
Lootman wrote:
SteMiS wrote:I think the point is that pretty much everyone pays tax (even if you live off savings and have no 'income').

Possibly but again it depends how you show the data. To my mind if someone receives more in welfare than they pay in tax, then there is a very real sense in which "they pay no tax". They are not part of funding the government but rather are a net liability.

Perhaps you’d then consider that everyone paid from the public purse pays no tax - NHS staff, civil servants, MPs even and the rest. Goodness, no wonder I seem to be carrying a burden!

I would draw a distinction between someone being paid welfare and someone who works for and is paid by the government, or who draws a state pension paid for by prior contributions from working. That said the size of the public sector is a problem and a burden. Just a separate one.

My bigger point was that these academics express the breakdown of who pays taxes in self-serving terms. An analogy might help. Suppose you owe £1,000 to some guys. If you don't pay them back by tomorrow they are going to break your legs. Now suppose a rich man gives you £950 and a poor guy gives you the other £50.

Most people would feel much more gratitude to the guy who repaid 95% of their debt. But the academics instead say: "But look, the poor guy gave half of all he had whilst the rich guy only gave a tiny fraction. That is technically true but is not how ordinary people use words or express gratitude for generosity.

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Re: Wealth tax academic paper

#418684

Postby SteMiS » June 10th, 2021, 6:16 pm

Lootman wrote:
SteMiS wrote:
Lootman wrote:Yes but again it shows how very different results can be derived depending on how you represent the data. So if I want to show how little tax the wealthy pay, then I show tax as a percentage rate of income/wealth, and then invite people to conclude that taxation is not really that progressive. On the other hand if I want to show how much tax the wealthy pay, then I show data showing the actual amount of tax paid by that very small percentage of the population, thereby demonstrating what a huge part of the total burden they bear. Fun with statistics.

Everyone in this game has an agenda. But for the record I think that everyone should pay at least some tax, because otherwise they are tempted to always vote for higher taxes (on everyone else).

I think the point is that pretty much everyone pays tax (even if you live off savings and have no 'income').

Possibly but again it depends how you show the data. To my mind if someone receives more in welfare than they pay in tax, then there is a very real sense in which "they pay no tax". They are not part of funding the government but rather are a net liability.

There's all sorts of unequal benefits that people receive from the state that is not reflected in simple cash 'rebates'

Those with children v those without - education expenditure
Those with poor health v those with good - health expenditure

I'm very much in favour of successful entrepreneurs benefitting from the fruits of their efforts. But let's be honest, they couldn't achieve it without the infrastructure (soft and hard) that the government provides from taxes. So it' not unreasonable that, in principle, their contribution is proportionate to their benefit they receive. It's not a 'favour' that they do that...

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Re: Wealth tax academic paper

#418687

Postby SteMiS » June 10th, 2021, 6:22 pm

Lootman wrote:My bigger point was that these academics express the breakdown of who pays taxes in self-serving terms. An analogy might help. Suppose you owe £1,000 to some guys. If you don't pay them back by tomorrow they are going to break your legs. Now suppose a rich man gives you £950 and a poor guy gives you the other £50.

Most people would feel much more gratitude to the guy who repaid 95% of their debt. But the academics instead say: "But look, the poor guy gave half of all he had whilst the rich guy only gave a tiny fraction. That is technically true but is not how ordinary people use words or express gratitude for generosity.

I'm not sure that's even true. Sometimes you see reports in the press about how a pensioner has sent £20 from their pension to a particular charity or a school kid has saved up £5 from their pocket money to do so. I think most people would attribute more to that than if, say, Bill Gates just donated £500 every year*.

[* Yes, I know he doesn't, but if he did...]

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Re: Wealth tax academic paper

#418764

Postby Lootman » June 11th, 2021, 8:22 am

SteMiS wrote:
Lootman wrote:My bigger point was that these academics express the breakdown of who pays taxes in self-serving terms. An analogy might help. Suppose you owe £1,000 to some guys. If you don't pay them back by tomorrow they are going to break your legs. Now suppose a rich man gives you £950 and a poor guy gives you the other £50.

Most people would feel much more gratitude to the guy who repaid 95% of their debt. But the academics instead say: "But look, the poor guy gave half of all he had whilst the rich guy only gave a tiny fraction. That is technically true but is not how ordinary people use words or express gratitude for generosity.

I'm not sure that's even true. Sometimes you see reports in the press about how a pensioner has sent £20 from their pension to a particular charity or a school kid has saved up £5 from their pocket money to do so. I think most people would attribute more to that than if, say, Bill Gates just donated £500 every year*.

Perhaps, but ultimately what matters to the charity or to the Exchequer is the total amount of money received, since that is what can be spent. That £500 buys a lot more than the £20 or the £5. The ultimate point of taxation is to collect the required amount and not to endlessly tinker around with who pays it to ensure some kind of optimal curve. And that "required amount" already overwhelmingly comes from those who are well off.

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Re: Wealth tax academic paper

#418799

Postby SteMiS » June 11th, 2021, 11:08 am

Lootman wrote:
SteMiS wrote:
Lootman wrote:My bigger point was that these academics express the breakdown of who pays taxes in self-serving terms. An analogy might help. Suppose you owe £1,000 to some guys. If you don't pay them back by tomorrow they are going to break your legs. Now suppose a rich man gives you £950 and a poor guy gives you the other £50.

Most people would feel much more gratitude to the guy who repaid 95% of their debt. But the academics instead say: "But look, the poor guy gave half of all he had whilst the rich guy only gave a tiny fraction. That is technically true but is not how ordinary people use words or express gratitude for generosity.

I'm not sure that's even true. Sometimes you see reports in the press about how a pensioner has sent £20 from their pension to a particular charity or a school kid has saved up £5 from their pocket money to do so. I think most people would attribute more to that than if, say, Bill Gates just donated £500 every year*.

Perhaps, but ultimately what matters to the charity or to the Exchequer is the total amount of money received, since that is what can be spent. That £500 buys a lot more than the £20 or the £5. The ultimate point of taxation is to collect the required amount and not to endlessly tinker around with who pays it to ensure some kind of optimal curve.

Tax has all sorts of other 'purposes' in our economy as well; to modify (i.e. encourage/discourage) behaviour, to manage demand, to address iniquity. You may not agree with them all. I may not agree with them all. But that's how it's used.

Lootman wrote:And that "required amount" already overwhelmingly comes from those who are well off.

Whilst it's true that the well off generally pay more tax in pound note terms I don't think it's quite as extreme as the

"the richest 2% pay over 50% of taxes"

you quoted (which relates purely to income tax). As I posted earlier (viewtopic.php?p=418417#p418417), the percentage of income paid by the different quartiles is relatively similar. According to https://assets.publishing.service.gov.u ... le_2.4.pdf it is the top 25% that receive 53% of total income (before tax). So bearing in mind the similar overall percentage tax rates of the different deciles (and the fact that not all tax is personal tax) I'd say that's a better, albeit crude, view of where half the taxes come from...the top 25% not the top 2%.


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