• Tag Archives taxes
  • Trump Just Imposed a New Tax on Lumber

    Trump Just Imposed a New Tax on Lumber

    There are a lot of news reports today about Trump’s decision to impose stiff tariffs on American companies (home builders) who buy Canadian lumber, here is a sample: “Trump slaps first tariffs on Canadian lumber,” “Tariff on Canadian lumber sends a stern message,” “Trump Administration To Impose 20 Percent Tariff On Canadian Lumber,” and “Trump slaps duty on lumber from Canada.” In each case, those news reports miss a few very critical points: a) Canadian lumber doesn’t pay the tariff, b) Canadian lumber companies won’t pay the tariff, and c) American lumber-buying companies (mostly home builders) will pay the tariff, which will be passed along to home buyers in the form of higher new home prices. Therefore, it’s more accurate to report that Trump has just slapped stiff 20% tariffs (lumber taxes) on the American people, not Canada.

    I’ve taken the liberty of making some edits to the New York Times article “In New Trade Front, Trump Slaps Tariffs on Canadian Lumber” to reflect more accurately the viewpoint of the American consumer and American lumber-buying companies (home builders), and expose tariffs for what they really are: price-raising, job-killing, prosperity-destroying trade policies that involve the government-sanctioned “legal plunder” of Americans (home buyers and home builders in this case) by domestic producers (domestic lumber producers):

    New Title: “In New Trade Front, Trump Slaps Stiff Import Taxes on American Home Builders Buying Canadian Lumber”

    WASHINGTON — The Trump administration announced on Monday that it would impose new tariffs taxes on Americans who purchase Canadian softwood lumber imports, escalating a longstanding conflict with America’s second-largest trading partner.

    The Commerce Department determined that Canada had been improperly generously subsidizing the sale of American companies who buy softwood lumber products to the United States from Canada, and after failed negotiations to keep lumber prices internationally competitive, Washington decided unfairly to retaliate against American lumber buyers with tariffs of 3 percent to 24 percent. The penalties (taxes) imposed on Americans will be collected retroactively on imports dating back 90 days.

    The decision came days after President Trump complained bitterly on behalf of U.S. dairy farmers about Canada’s dairy trade practice of slashing their milk prices (to the great benefit of Americans, especially the poor), and the tariffs on Americans signaled a harsher turn in his relationship with Canada the American people even as he seeks to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. While he has often assailed China, Mexico and others for their trade practices, he seemed to have forged a strong relationship with Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau.

    The United States lumber companies and Canada have been rivals and at odds over softwood lumber in one form or another since the 19th century, with the current dispute tracing back to 1982. The United States imported $5.7 billion in softwood lumber last year alone, mainly for residential home building. Raising prices on imported Canadian lumber by 20 percent will likely lead to higher prices for new homes, and could slow home building and lead to layoffs for U.S. construction workers.

    Therefore, the tariffs taxes on American home builders buying Canadian lumber are likely to be opposed by American homebuilders, who say they raise the cost of new houses for American home buyers. A study last year by the National Association of Home Builders found that a 15 percent tariff tax on American home builders buying imported lumber would increase new home prices by 4.2 percent and cost 4,666 full-time construction jobs.

    When will the public finally come to understand these basic economic facts about trade protectionism and tariffs?

    1. Tariffs are simply taxes on imports, and those taxes are paid for by Americans, not foreigners. In this case, Canadian lumber producers aren’t paying the 20% tariff/tax, American lumber buyers (home builders) pay the tax on imported lumber from Canada, and those taxes on lumber are eventually paid for by American home buyers.

    2. Tariffs on imported lumber might help protect, save or create jobs in one US industry (lumber producers), but will destroy more jobs in other US industries (construction in this case).

    3. US producers only engage in rent-seeking to use government force to be protected against foreign rivals when foreign competitors (Canadian lumber producers in this case) offer lower prices to Americans than domestic producers. That’s why it’s called “protectionism” — it’s protection for high-cost domestic companies against low-cost foreign competition.

    4. It shouldn’t really matter why foreign producers are better able to serve American consumers with lower prices than domestic producers. If China “manipulates” its currency to offer Americans lower prices that otherwise would be the case, that policy provides net benefits for Americans. If Canada “unfairly” subsidizes its lumber producers, that’s a form of foreign aid, and a gift from the citizens of Canada to the citizens of the United States. If we wouldn’t complain about free lumber from Canada, we shouldn’t complain about low lumber prices that might be subsidized by Canadian citizens.

    5. Protectionism should be seen for what it really is: Trade policies that favor domestic producers over consumers, raise taxes and prices for Americans, and in the process destroy jobs and prosperity. In other words, it’s a sure formula to make a country poor, not great.

    Bottom Line: To paraphrase a comment Milton Friedman once made about minimum wage laws, trade protectionism is a monument to the power of superficial thinking. Superficial and short-sighted because it ignores the complexities and dynamics of world markets, and ignores all of the unseen, delayed and hidden costs of trade protectionism that will make the American economy weak again, not great again.

    Republished from AEI.


    Mark J. Perry

    Mark J. Perry is a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a professor of economics and finance at the University of Michigan’s Flint campus.

    This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.



  • Taxes Are Worse than You Thought

    Taxes Are Worse than You Thought

    We are quickly approaching the deadline for filing (and paying) our federal and state income taxes (extended to April 18 this year because of Emancipation Day), and that means it’s time for my annual post at tax time to help put things in perspective.

    1. Some Historical Perspective. “In the beginning” when the US federal income tax was first introduced in 1913, it used to be a lot, lot simpler and a lot easier to file taxes; so easy in fact that it was basically like filling out your federal tax return on a postcard.



    For example, page 1 of the original IRS 1040 income tax form from 1913 appears above. There were only four pages in the original 1040 form, including two pages of worksheets, the actual one-page 1040 form above, and only one page of instructions (view all four pages here). In contrast, just the current 1040 instructions for 2016, without any forms, runs 106 pages.

    Individual federal income tax rates started at 1% in 1913, and the maximum marginal income tax rate was only 7% on incomes above $500,000 (more than $12 million in today’s dollars). The personal exemption in 1913 was $3,000 for individuals ($72,850 in today’s dollars) and $4,000 for married couples ($97,000 in today’s dollars), meaning that very few Americans had to pay federal income tax since the average income in 1913 was only about $750. The Tax Foundation has historical federal income tax rates for every year between 1913 and 2013 here for tax brackets expressed in both nominal dollars and inflation-adjusted dollars.

    2. Tax Graphic of the Day (above). Some more historical perspective…

    3. Opportunity Cost. In a 2012 report to Congress (most recent data available), the National Taxpayer Advocate estimated that American taxpayers and businesses spend 6.1 billion hours every year complying with the income tax code, based on IRS estimates of how much time taxpayers (both individual and businesses) spend collecting data for, and filling out their tax forms. In addition, Americans will spend an estimated $10 billion for the services of tax preparation firms and $2 billion on tax-preparation software programs like TurboTax that still require many hours of time.

    The amount of time spent on income tax compliance – 6.1 billion hours – would be the equivalent of more than 3 million Americans working full-time, year-round (or 2.1% of total US payrolls of 145.9 million). By way of comparison, the federal government currently employs 2.8 million full-time workers, and Wal-Mart, the world’s largest private employer, currently employs 2.2 million workers worldwide and 1.3 million workers in the US (both full-time and part-time). At the current average hourly wage of $21.90 an hour, the dollar value of the opportunity cost associated with tax filing would be more than $131 billion, slightly more than the 2016 GDP of Washington, D.C. ($127 billion).

    As T.R. Reid pointed out recently in a New York Times op-ed, it really doesn’t have to be that way. For example:

    In Japan, you get a postcard in early spring from Kokuzeicho (Japan’s IRS) that says how much you earned last year, how much tax you owed, and how much was withheld. If you disagree, you go into the tax office to work it out. For nearly everybody, though, the numbers are correct, so you never have to file a return.

    4. Tax Progressivity. And just how progressive is the US federal income tax system? Very, very progressive, see the chart above showing average effective tax rates by various income groups in 2014 (most recent year available). That pattern of income tax progressivity explains why almost all federal income taxes are paid by the top income groups (see next few items).

    5. Tax Progressivity and Tax Burden. According to the most recent IRS data, the federal income tax shares by six different income groups are displayed in the chart above. Almost all federal income taxes (97.3%) are paid by the top 50%, more than 2/3 of income taxes are paid for by the top 10% and nearly 40% of taxes are paid by the top 1% of taxpayers. For all of the criticism and negative publicity the “Top 1%” get, I’d like to personally thank that group this year at tax time for shouldering such a disproportionate share of our collective tax burden. It’s a form of “disparate impact” on the 1% that we all benefit from! So, I say “Thank You Top 1%” from all of us in the bottom 99% for your valuable and significant contribution to our nation’s tax burden.

     

    6. Tax Burden of the Top 1% vs. the Bottom 95%. The chart above gives us another perspective on the tax burden of the top 1% over time, and compares the tax share of that group to the tax burden of the bottom 95% in every year between 1980 and 2014 (most recent year available). In 2014, the top 1% earned 20.6% of the total income reported to the IRS and paid 39.4% of all federal income taxes collected ($543 billion). The bottom 95% of US taxpayers earned 64% of total income (almost three times as much as the top 1%) and paid only 40.5% of the total income taxes collected ($550 billion). So once again, to the 1.395 million taxpayers in the top 1%, I say “Thank You” for paying almost as much in federal income taxes in 2013 as the 132.6 million taxpayers in the bottom 95% by income.

    7. Bowling vs. Taxes. Speaking of the progressivity of income taxes, here’s a thought about the way we tax income vs. the way we score bowling. Under the scoring rules of bowling, you get rewarded, not penalized, for being successful. If you get a spare, the scoring system rewards you by adding the pins from the next ball into the current frame, and if you get a strike you get rewarded by adding your next 2 balls into the current frame.

    Under our progressive income tax system with seven tax rates in 2015 increasing from 10% to 39.6%, you get penalized, not rewarded, for being successful, productive and entrepreneurial, because the more you earn, the higher the tax rate you pay. The top marginal income tax rate has been as high as 91% in the 1950s and 1960s, and 70% in the 1970s. If we scored bowling the way we tax income, we would subtract, not add pins for a spare or strike, i.e., penalize successful bowling. If we taxed income the way we score bowling, we would have lower, not higher, tax rates on our most successful income-earners.

    8. Coincidence? Why are Tax Day (April 15) and Voting Day (first Tuesday in November) so far apart? Couldn’t we move Tax Day to the first Monday in November, or Voting Day to the first Tuesday following April 15?

    9. What’s in a Name? Why do we call the IRS a “service?” Couldn’t it have been named a department like Labor, a bureau like the BLS or the FBI, a commission like the FTC, an administration like FDA, an agency like EPA, etc.?

    10. 20 Inspirational Quotes about Taxes from Forbes, here are a few good ones:

    “The taxpayer: that’s someone who works for the federal government, but doesn’t have to take a civil service examination.” – Ronald Reagan

    “We have what it takes to take what you have.” – Suggested IRS Motto 

    “It is a paradoxical truth that tax rates are too high today and tax revenues are too low, and the soundest way to raise the revenues in the long run is to cut the tax rates.” – John F. Kennedy

    I am proud to be paying taxes in the United States. The only thing is I could be just as proud for half of the money.” – Arthur Godfrey

    “A liberal is someone who feels a great debt to his fellow man, which debt he proposes to pay off with your money.” – G. Gordon Liddy

    Happy Tax Day!

    Republished from AEI.


    Mark J. Perry

    Mark J. Perry is a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a professor of economics and finance at the University of Michigan’s Flint campus.

    This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.


  • European Welfare States Are Frantic to Breed More Taxpayers

    European Welfare States Are Frantic to Breed More Taxpayers

    Recently I read a very peculiar news item reporting that the Spanish government has appointed what the media are calling a “Sex Tsar.” It is officially a “commissioner for the demographic challenge,” whose job is to persuade the people of Spain to have more sex, and, by extension, more children.

     

    The Spanish are not alone. In 2016, the Italian government ran a “Fertility Day” campaign to get people to have more babies. The Swedish government has initiated a study into the sex lives of its citizens, to find ways to increase the amount of sex Swedes have.

    If that was all there was to the story, we could chalk it up to politicians being their usual ridiculous selves and have a good laugh about it. But this nonsense has serious economic causes and potentially far-reaching consequences.

    The Ponzi Welfare State




    In each of the three cases, the main reason governments wanted more children was to save the welfare state. The welfare state is the biggest Ponzi scheme on Earth, as the great economist Milton Friedman explained.

    As long as there are more taxpayers (young, working people) than those who are receiving the benefits of the welfare state, the whole operation runs fine.

    The problem starts when people have fewer babies, as in Europe. This will result in a larger number of old people depending on the government, which will have to tax a smaller and smaller working population to finance the benefits. Without new fools to con, the Ponzi scheme will collapse. Even Paul Krugman understands this elementary fact about welfare schemes like Social Security.

    Immigrants could compensate for the shrinking population in Europe and increase the tax base for governments. But the governments have closed borders to refugees from Syria and other countries (due to political compulsions), making immigration more difficult precisely when they need more people. If they cannot get more taxpayers through migration, the only alternative is to get their citizens to have more children.

    Precedent in History

    In 1807, the United States Congress outlawed the import of slaves, economically akin to the immigration controls in modern Europe. Because slave masters could not get more slaves from Africa, they established “breeding farms,” as Ned and Constance Sublette describe in their book, “The American Slave Coast: A History of the Slave-Breeding Industry.”

    On these breeding farms, there were far more women and children than men. Slaves were encouraged to have stable family lives. As economic historian and Nobel laureate Robert Fogel explained in his book “Time on the Cross: The Economics of American Slavery,” most slaves were sold with their entire families, or, when a slave wished to separate from his family, separately. In fact, as distinguished economists Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams have pointed out so often, more black children were raised in two-parent families during slavery than are today.

    Was this because slave owners had any love for their slaves? Not by any stretch of the imagination. The slave owners simply wanted to maximize profits by encouraging their slaves to have more children. They gave rewards to women for having children, similar to the tax benefits or payments offered by a welfare state. Just as politicians can stay in the welfare business only if citizens have more and more children, the slave owners could stay in business only if slaves had more and more children. They knew that, and acted purely in their selfish interests – just like politicians.

    Next, Fogel pointed out that living standards for slaves in the South were comparable to those of free workers in industry. The master ensured the welfare of his slaves, just like the modern welfare state does with its citizens.

    There is yet another striking parallel between the welfare state and slavery. People such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson believed that slavery was a terrible thing – Jefferson called it a “great political and moral evil” – yet they continued to hold slaves. They justified it by saying slaves were not capable of taking care of themselves. In the event that they set the slaves free, they argued, the slaves would fall into destitution and suffering.

    This argument made by Washington and Jefferson is exactly the same as that made by proponents of a welfare state. History is bound to repeat itself if people don’t pay attention the first time around.

    People in countries with a growing population, such as the US, or developing countries like India, should learn the lesson before it is too late, and take steps to roll back the welfare state while there is still time, or else end up slaves to the state.


    Jairaj Devadiga

    Jairaj Devadiga is an economist who illustrates the importance of property rights and freedom through some interesting real-world cases.

    This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.