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Those Institute for Economic Affairs tax proposals.

Thursday, November 3, 2016 5:07
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Most of the more detailed stuff slagging off existing taxes on pages 167 to 222 is actually quite good. They make the usual Faux Lib mistakes in thinking that VAT is a tax on ‘consumption’ and that corporation tax is a tax on ‘capital’, but hey.

Here’s the fun part:

Location value tax

One exception [to their rule that 'wealth taxes' are bad], however, is tax that captures the location value of land. If properly constituted, a tax on location value may cause disproportionately little economic damage, because land cannot be hidden or taken overseas to avoid the tax and owners cannot respond to the tax by producing less value in its location – for the reason that they are not responsible for it in the first place.

A location value tax involves a tax on the value of land in a given location which is normally calculated on the assumption of the land being in its most valuable permitted use. However, it is a tax on the land value only and not on any associated buildings…

A further objection arises from the fact that the burden of a location value tax falls on the owner of the land at the time when the tax is announced. The value of the land should fall immediately by the discounted present value of the expected future tax payments required under the tax. It is therefore a windfall tax on landowners and amounts to arbitrary and retrospective confiscation of the value of their assets.

That’s not actually an argument against LVT, that is a huge advantage, a large one-time, one-off tax hit payable in instalments in future. So people in future will be largely unaffected; they are just paying in LVT what they otherwise would have paid in rent of mortgage payments.

This would ordinarily constitute an unacceptable obstacle to the design of a good tax system but these objections could be outweighed by the otherwise highly efficient nature of the tax together with some carefully designed transitional measures. The loss of value to landowners who have done little to improve their property except wait while the amenities and services provided by others have spilled over into the value of their land, pushing up its value, may not command widespread sympathy etc etc.

Being numpties, they estimate the site premium of all UK housing at £74 billion, which is only one-third of the true figure. But at least they propose a high tax rate of 75% (page 21), so their LVT (on housing, commercial and farmland)would be enough to replace Council Tax, Business Rates and SDTL, so amen to that.

And even though they say that taxes should be simple, they double up with this:

To better adhere to the neutrality and transparency principles, almost all exemptions and all reduced rates for VAT should be abolished. But new dwelling construction, repairs and maintenance, and rents should not be subject to VAT. Instead, these items should be captured along with the consumption value of owner-occupied housing with a housing consumption tax which should be set at the same rate as the standard VAT rate and should aim to mimic VAT.

A system such as this this operated in the form of domestic rates until its abolition in 1990, when it was replaced by the community charge (‘poll tax’) and then council tax. The rates were intended to be reassessed frequently but, in practice, reviews were usually long delayed, which led to even stronger pressure to resist reviews as the changes in particular households’ tax rates that the review would lead to would be so great. This distorted spatial patterns of housing consumption and opened a gap in the level of taxation on housing versus other consumption.

To avoid repeating this problem, three design features should be implemented:
• Assessed rents should be automatically increased annually in line with a local rent index.
• Rent reassessments should be carried out at a fixed frequency, perhaps every four years…

In isolation that seems better than what we’ve got, but why bother with two taxes on essentially the same thing? If anything, as and when VAT is phased out, more should be collected in LVT and quasi-LVT, not less.


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