The Fair Tax Would Solve the Problems at the IRS

Janet Novack writes of the funding shortfalls at the IRS that are leading to reduced enforcement, poor customer service, and a low chance of getting through to get answers to even easy questions in her piece, There’s A Crisis At The IRS And It’s Not What You Think.  One might think the agency was awash in money, given the IRS’s ability to go to lavish conferences and produce ridiculous videos such as the ludicrous Star Trek and employee line dancing videos, both produced at taxpayer expense, and the agency’s ability to pay bonuses even to employees who cheated on their own taxes and were guilty of other offenses.  Still, Ms. Novack says the agency needs more money to do its job properly.  Probably the most serious issue that needs to be addressed is the large amount of identity fraud due to people stealing tax returns filed electronically and the filing of false returns by thieves to steal refunds directly. 

There is way to address the issue, however, that would not cost more money – in fact it would cost far less and yet bring in the same amount of money to the government, or possibly even significantly more.  This solution would drastically reduce the amount of work the IRS has rather than increase the amount of funding, allowing them to actually cut staff.  Note that this would also go a long way to solve the issue of taxpayer money being wasted for silly purposes since a smaller overall budget generally results in less waste since each dollar counts so much more.  This solution would be to enact the Fair Tax.

With the Fair Tax, taxes would be collected by retailers when new products or services were sold.  Instead of paying in estimated taxes and having paycheck withholding, citizens would receive a check each month from the government to “prefund” a portion of the taxes they pay.  This is how the system avoids being regressive (i.e., this keeps people with lower incomes from paying a higher portion of their incomes in taxes).  Individuals would receive their entire paycheck, have no need to report their incomes or track expenses, and only pay taxes when they chose to spend their money on new goods or services.

So how would this cut the work at the IRS?  Instead of needing to go through the tax returns of millions of citizens, they would only need to audit the books of thousands of businesses.  And the audit would be simple – how much money did you collect in revenue during the last period and did you multiply it by the correct percentage?  This is something that anyone could check very quickly and any retail establishment could easily get right.  We should be able to cut the size of the IRS by 90% or more, freeing these employees to do something more productive than audit tax returns.

Another advantage of the Fair Tax, which may be more important than the simplification of the tax system and the reduction in the size of the IRS, is the removal of the power held by the IRS and along with it the potential for this power to be abused.  It should send shivers through the spine of any American, regardless of their political persuasion, that the audit power of the IRS was clearly levied against only Conservative groups before the last election and that senior IRS officials are pleading the fifth when asked about the illegal activities.  While this power may have allegedly been used to benefit Democrats during the last election, there is nothing to stop the power from being used to benefit Republicans should they come into power again and be able to appoint IRS officials.  No one should live in fear of harassment over their taxes due to a speech they give, a talk show they host, or a letter they write to a newspaper.

What are your thoughts?  Wouldn’t it be nice to collect the money the government needs without all of the paperwork?  Please leave a comment and let me know.

Tax Day Again. Ready for the Fair Tax Yet?

So today is tax day in America yet again.  Sometime in the last few months you probably had to gather your receipts, W-2 forms, and 1099′s.  You had to buy some tax software or set up a meeting with an accountant.  Either way, you were out at least $100 because the forms are too complicated to someone to just fill out.  You then spent several hours away from your family filling in information.  You probably also had to call various places for receipts, send money or letters of authorization to transfer money into IRAs and HSAs before the deadline.  You then needed to go to the post office and stand in line to send in your forms, or sent them in electronically despite warnings from the IRS that many tax returns are being stolen each year when filed electronically and the information used for identity theft.  You do all this because the law says you need to in order to pay your taxes.

If you’re like most people, you probably also got a big refund check back.  You may look forward to receiving that check, and maybe you use it to pay down a credit card bill or just blow it on something, but realize that is your money that the government had all year long without paying you a dime of interest.  Maybe you paid credit card interest all year because Uncle Sam was holding onto that money.  At 15% per year, that’s $600 per year you are losing if your refund is $4,000.  Even at $2000 per year, that’s $300 you are losing.

There is a better way and it’s called the Fair Tax.    With the Fair Tax you would receive your entire paycheck each month with no deductions taken out so your paycheck would be at least 20% bigger.  You wouldn’t pay a dime in taxes until you bought a new item, at which point you would pay a sales tax.  That would be the end of your obligation as far as taxes went.  You wouldn’t need to save any receipts.  You wouldn’t need to file anything.  You would pay at the cash register and then go on with your life.

One argument against a sales tax is that it is regressive since people who make less spend a higher percentage of their income.  This is also addressed in the Fair Tax with a prefund.  Each year (or each month) everyone who works would get a deposit in their accounts from the government to cover a portion of the sales tax they pay.  Fo example, if the Fair Tax is 20% and you wanted to make sure no one who made less that $30,000 paid anything in taxes, you would issue a prefund of $600 per year to everyone.  Then the prefund would cover the taxes on the first $30,000 you spent.  Only those spending more than $30,000 per year would then be paying taxes.  You could set the prefund as high or as low as you wished depending on how much you needed to collect in taxes and at what income threshold you wished people to start paying taxes.

Another argument is that people don’t want to be paying a 20% sales tax (an estimate for the sales tax that would be needed to raise the same amount of money as is currently raised through the payroll taxes and income tax).  Realize first of all that you are already paying 12% or more of your income out before you get your check.  Including the employer match for Social Security and Medicare, you are paying around 20%.  This is not just on the money you spend, but also on the money you save.  It is also expected that because retailers will no longer need to spend as much money on tax planning, and because they would no longer pay income tax on their earnings, that prices would fall, perhaps by enough to cover most, if not all, of the sales tax.  It is very likely that the government will be raising the same amount in taxes while you are paying a lower percentage of your (increased) income in taxes.

If this sounds great to you, go to learn more, and learn how you can help get the Fair Tax passed.  Let’s have 2013 be the last year you need to spend time away from your family filling out forms.

To ask a question, email or leave the question in a comment.

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Disclaimer: This blog is not meant to give financial planning advice, it gives information on a specific investment strategy and picking stocks. It is not a solicitation to buy or sell stocks or any security. Financial planning advice should be sought from a certified financial planner, which the author is not. All investments involve risk and the reader as urged to consider risks carefully and seek the advice of experts if needed before investing.

Time to Get Your Taxes In

The deadline for filing your state and federal income taxes is looming.  Sure it’s spring and you need to do some spring cleaning, plant your garden, paint your windows, break out your yard furniture, and do a thousand other things, but you’ll face a big penalty if you don’t spend several hours in a dark room in front of a computer filling in minutia of your finances into TurboTax.  At least the advertisements for the software make it seem exciting, like your writing an autobiography of your life instead of doing mind-numbing fill-in-the-blank for hours on end.

It doesn’t have to be this way next year.  If we were to pass the Fair Tax, there would be no need to fill in any forms.  You would just pay a sales tax when you bought a new item to the store you bought it from.  You wouldn’t need to keep any receipts.  You wouldn’t need to remember to send a check to an IRA or an HSA before December 31 or April 15th.  You wouldn’t need to calculate your income, figure out if you could deduct a child or a home improvement, or segregate a part of your home as a home office.  April 15th would just be another beautiful spring day.

Better yet, you would get a check from the government instead of sending a check to the government.  You see, the Fair Tax, in order to prevent it from being regressive, meaning to prevent people at low-income levels from paying a greater portion of their income in taxes than wealthy individuals, would include a provision by which everyone would receive checks from the government, probably once a month, to cover a portion of the taxes paid at the register.  If everyone received $10,000 per year and the tax rate were 20%, no one making less than $50,000 per year would be paying a dime of taxes even if they spent their whole income.

And don’t let that 20% number scare you.  Remember that you would receive your whole paycheck, instead of the portion that is left over after FICA and Federal withholding, so your check would be bigger to start with.  Stores would also not need to spend a lot of time doing tax accounting and tax planning, so they could lower their prices.  Some predictions are that the entire 20% would be erased since prices would fall by 20% due to the savings.

The Fair Tax would also encourage saving.  If you spent less than $50,000 per year, you would get to pocket a portion of that $10,000 the government sent you.  Compare this with current tax policies that encourage people to overspend on houses so they can deduct the interest or buy new windows and electric cars so they can get a tax deductions.  Wouldn’t it be better if people were saving so they would have money available to take care of themselves when they lose a job or need to go to the hospital instead of these costs falling on society since everyone spends every dime they get?

Want to make it even better?  How about collecting the Fair Tax at the state level and then having the states decide what functions they want the Federal Government to do and what functions they want to do for themselves.  If they decide they’d like the Federal Government to take care of interstates, they’d send a portion of their money to the Feds.  If they found the feds were wasting the money, they could hold back and do the roads themselves instead.  If the Federal Government had less money, and if they had state legislatures, who are made up of people you can actually find at the grocery store and question about a dubious vote, you wouldn’t see these pork barrel projects in individual states to buy votes or spending hundreds of millions of dollars on vacations for senior government officials.  Of course the states could decide this is needed and send the money for it, but I’m thinking they would be inclined to hold onto it instead of sending the President and 100 of his closest friends to Europe.

If this sounds good to you, contact your Congressman and your Senators and tell them you want the Fair Tax.

To ask a question, email or leave the question in a comment.

Follow on Twitter to get news about new articles. @SmallIvy_SI

Disclaimer: This blog is not meant to give financial planning advice, it gives information on a specific investment strategy and picking stocks. It is not a solicitation to buy or sell stocks or any security. Financial planning advice should be sought from a certified financial planner, which the author is not. All investments involve risk and the reader as urged to consider risks carefully and seek the advice of experts if needed before investing.

Why Don’t People Want the Fair Tax?

Since posting this entry, I’ve had a couple of people rate the entry as “poor” instead of leaving a comment.  I’m thinking they’re actually rating the Fair Tax as poor rather than the post and I’d love to know why.  Please leave a comment and let me know why you don’t like the Fair Tax if this is the case.  If you can’t express a reason, maybe you need to rethink your stance.

I’ve made a few posts in the past about the Fair Tax.  In a nutshell, the Fair Tax would replace all of the existing Federal income taxes, including the Federal Income Tax itself, Social Security Taxes, and Medicare Taxes.  It would be a consumption tax on new goods and services (meaning your yard sale items wouldn’t be taxed, nor would your used car).  It is estimated that the tax rate would be about 20% if tax revenue levels were left the same.  Compare this with income taxes, which are around 10% for those in the middle class, Social Security taxes, which are 6.5% for the employee and the employer, meaning about 13% total, and Medicare taxes, which are about 4% between the employee and employer.  This means your paycheck would increase by about 27% in exchange for paying a 20% sales tax.  Sounds good to me.

But wait, there’s more.  Because businesses would no longer be paying corporate income taxes, and because they would no longer need to maintain a huge staff to handle payroll deductions, tax deferred accounts like 401k accounts, and planning to avoid corporate income taxes, their costs would go down.  This might increase profits a little for the shareholders if the company retains some of this savings, but most of that savings in the cost of providing goods and services would go to lowering their prices and raising salaries.  It is estimated that most of the 20% sales tax would be offset by the reduction in the prices of goods, meaning that the actual price you pay may be about the same, even including the sales tax.

Having less of a paperwork burden would also make it easier for people to open businesses.  If all you had to do was hire people and hand them a paycheck, rather than needing to have an elaborate accounting system to figure out tax withholding and all of the other corporate taxes, more people would be willing to start a business.  This would mean more competition for both customers and workers, meaning more selection, lower prices, and higher wages.

The tax is also not regressive because there is a prefund.  With the prefund every American would receive an electronic deposit from the government at the start of the year or the start of each month to cover part of the sales taxes.  For example, if you wanted the first $20,000 of spending to be tax-free to help low-income earners and the Fair Tax was 20%, you would send a prefund of $4,000 per year to each citizen.  This means that even if a person at the low end of the income spectrum spent their whole paycheck, they would not be paying any taxes.  If they saved a bit they would be getting a supplement to their income.

I’ve created posts on the Fair Tax before, but have gotten few responses.  I also am not seeing the activity needed to get one enacted.  Understand that politicians like the current income tax because it both gives them some control over their constituents and allows them to give special favors to big donors, which in turn helps get them re-elected.  If they want you to buy special windows or certain cars, they can create a tax deduction for those items.  Likewise, they can create special exemptions for coal companies, farmers, or sugar importers and in exchange get donations from those groups who want to keep the special tax break in place.  They even use Social Security to control seniors since all incumbents need to do to defeat a challenger that might restore some fiscal sanity to federal budgets is say she will cut Social Security or Medicare and get the seniors out in mass against her.  To replace the income tax with the Fair Tax, which would take all of the power away from the politicians and take away all of the ability of the IRS to stoke fear in the hearts of taxpayers, would take an enormous ground-swell of people demanding it be enacted.  It might also require some incumbents who enjoy the power they weild and wealth they gain with the existing tax system be replaced.

So my question is, why so little interest?  Do you like paying $100 to buy TurboTax each year or $300 to hire an accountant to help with your taxes?  Do you like to live in fear of an audit?  Do you like to save all of your receipts for business expenses, medical expenses, and write down the mileage from your car odometer after each business trip?  Do you like to keep seven years’ worth of tax returns just in case you get a call wanting you to prove your home office expenses from 2008?

I think it would be wonderful to get my whole paycheck rather than what is left after all of the taxes are removed.  I think it would be great to just throw out those receipts and not worry about what price I paid for a stock back in 1982.  I would love to not need to worry about making deposits to an IRA account before a certain date or worry about the limits for deposits to an HSA.  So what am I missing?

Please leave a comment with your reasons for not wanting the Fair Tax if there is something I’m missing.  If you support a Fair Tax, how about leaving a comment saying that so others could see this is not some crazy idea.  And if you do want the Fair Tax, how about writing a quick email to your Representative and Senators (just search for the US House of Representatives and the US Senate in Google and you’ll get the contact information in a few seconds).  And when politicians come calling or the political parties come asking for a donation, how about expressing your desire for a Fair Tax to them.  Maybe 2014 could be the last year where you’ll need to file income taxes.

Contact me at, or leave a comment.

Disclaimer: This blog is not meant to give financial planning advice, it gives information on a specific investment strategy and picking stocks. It is not a solicitation to buy or sell stocks or any security. Financial planning advice should be sought from a certified financial planner, which the author is not. All investments involve risk and the reader as urged to consider risks carefully and seek the advice of experts if needed before investing.

10 Reasons Why You Should Like the Fair Tax

The Fair Tax  is gaining momentum.   My Congresswoman said that she has heard a lot of people calling for the Fair Tax since the IRS scandal broke.  Perhaps you should call or write to your congressman today and demand they pass the Fair Tax.

Why should you?  What’s in it for you?  Well, here are ten reasons you should like the Fair Tax.

10.  You would get your whole paycheck.  There would be no taxes taken out (ok, maybe state taxes, depending where you live).  No federal income taxes, no Social Security taxes, no Medicare taxes.  This means you’d start with 20-45% more money.

9.  You would not need to keep any paperwork.  With the income tax you need to keep documentation of what you made, what you gave, what you bought, and other things.  All of this goes away with the Fair Tax.

8.  The tax can be as level or progressive as you want.  The tax gives a prefund - money sent out to every citizen each month or each year – to cover a share of the taxes paid.  By raising the level of the prefund, you raise the spending level at which people start to pay taxes.  For example, if the prefund is $4000 and the tax rate is 20%, then no one would pay any taxes on the first $20,000 per year that they spent.  This would be enough for most families to buy food, shelter, and basic clothing.

7.  Paying taxes would be as easy as paying sales tax.  The Fair Tax is a national tax on the purchase of new goods.  You would just be told what to pay when you were buying new goods and services – no complex forms required.  You pay the tax and then forget about it.

6.  April 15th would be just another day.  Why ruin a nice spring day with needing to get your forms filled out and sent in.

5.  Income tax forms are a prime target for identity thieves.  Just think about it – your social security number, full name, address, employer, dependants, and bank account data all in one place.  No wonder thieves are stealing these forms from mail boxes and from accountants who file electronically.

4.  Everyone who spends money would pay the tax.  Drug dealers, prostitutes, hitmen, bootleggers, illegal aliens, people paid under-the-table and everyone else who doesn’t typically file income taxes on their income now still spends money.  They would pay the tax like everyone else when they did so, meaning that taxes could be lower for everyone else.

3.  Costs of products would be lower since businesses would not need to spend lots of money figuring out the best way to shelter their incomes.

2.  You would not need to spend hours filling out forms, paying an accountant a few hundred dollars to help you, or even fifty dollars for tax software each year.

1.  The IRS would no longer be needed and have no power over anyone.  Because you would pay your taxes when you bought things and not need to prove to anyone what your income was and what deductions you qualify for, there would be no fear of a letter in the mail or a phone call about an audit.  There would still need to be enforcement to make sure businesses were not dealing under the table, but this would be a lot less subjective.

There are plenty of other reasons to like the Fair Tax.  Learn more about it, then tell a friend if you like what you see.  Things can change – it will just take a lot of people making their voices heard.

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Disclaimer: This blog is not meant to give financial planning or tax advice.  It gives general information on investment strategy, picking stocks, and generally managing money to build wealth. It is not a solicitation to buy or sell stocks or any security. Financial planning advice should be sought from a certified financial planner, which the author is not. Tax advice should be sought from a CPA.  All investments involve risk and the reader as urged to consider risks carefully and seek the advice of experts if needed before investing.