Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Are Higher Tax Rates Really That Bad?

The Laffer Curve is an economic theory that pinpoints a revenue-maximizing percentage for taxation; in other words, it prescribes a certain tax percentage beyond which tax revenues actually start to decrease due to tax avoidance, evasion and nonpayment. Economists Peter Diamond and Emmanuel Saez believe the percentage for those in the top 1% of U.S. earners hovers somewhere between 50%-70%, meaning the government could raise their tax rate up to at least 50% before seeing a drop in revenue. The wealthy heartily disagree, but there is no way to tell other than to look at historical data, which indicates the hike would not change behavior. For more on this continue reading the following article from Economist’s View

Peter Diamond and Emmanuel Saez:
High Tax Rates Won't Slow Growth, by Peter Diamond and Emmanuel Saez, Commentary, WSJ: The share of pre-tax income accruing to the top 1% of earners in the U.S. has more than doubled to about 20% in 2010 from less than 10% in the 1970s. At the same time, the average federal income tax rate on top earners has declined significantly. Given the large current and projected deficits, should the top 1% be taxed more? ...
But will taxable incomes of the top 1% respond to a tax increase by declining so much that revenue rises very little or even drops? In other words, are we already near or beyond the peak of the famous Laffer Curve, the revenue-maximizing tax rate? ...
According to our analysis..., the revenue-maximizing top federal marginal income tax rate would be in or near the range of 50%-70%... Thus we conclude that raising the top tax rate is very likely to result in revenue increases at least until we reach the 50% rate that held during the first Reagan administration, and possibly until the 70% rate of the 1970s. ...
But will raising top tax rates significantly lower economic growth? In the postwar U.S., higher top tax rates tend to go with higher economic growth—not lower. ... Neither does international evidence support a case for lower growth from higher top taxes. ...
By itself, a suitable increase in the taxation of top earners will not solve our unsustainable long-term fiscal trajectory. But that is no reason not to use this tool to contribute to addressing this problem.
With the "taxes harm growth" and Laffer curve arguments undercut by research such as this, Republicans have fallen back on the argument that it's unfair to take income away from those who earn it. But that presumes that the system allocates income fairly, a claim that is hard to swallow given how much financial executives are paid relative to their contribution to the productive process (to name just one example). There's nothing unfair about using taxes to "clawback" misdirected income, and it won't harm growth to send income where it should have gone in the first place.

This article was republished with permission from Economist's View.

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May 10, 2012 at 1:20 PM Bill said...

If you think that the rich paying more tax will harm the economy, you really need to watch the CNBC documentary by David Faber, 'Untold Wealth: The Rise of the Super Rich.'

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