Series on tax: Part 3 – poll taxes, ability taxes, and fairness considerations

By Matt Nolan 31/05/2013


Over on Rates Blog they’ve popped up part three of the six part thing I’m writing about tax.  Over here, we’ve blogged on part 1 and part 2, and added a part 2b for kicks.

You’ll notice I’m doing sometime pretty specific when I’m loitering around the tax system.  I’m talking about the properties of a tax, and then given we don’t use specific types of tax I’m inferring that there may be some social preference involved such that we’ve chosen not to.  Given that, I’m trying to build up concepts of fairness (read vertical and horizontal equity if you will, but I do mean it a bit more broadly than that) from the way society had evolved.

This may not be the case, but it doesn’t have to be.  It is merely a mechanism I can use to tease out these sorts of principals to try and make them a visible part of the “trade-off” we are discussing.  This series isn’t about saying what tax system we “should” have – it is about describing what different types of tax are, albeit on quite a surface level.  As I stated in the first article, it is actually a lot more complicated (and a damned interesting issue) to figure out exactly how redistribution will work from a given policy!

Of course, if we were to describe the type of tax system we SHOULD have, we would want to actual make subjective judgments about value and potential “social preferences for fairness”.  We require these additional value judgments to actually make a conclusion ;)

Next time I’m talking about income, capital, land, and consumption taxes.  I hope you get ready for me to bring up elasticities again, as we’re going to need them ;)