• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • More Evidence against the VAT

    In the ongoing discussion on how best to address the nation’s out-of-control deficit spending, one proposal would increase taxes by adding a value-added tax (VAT) on top of the current tax system. Proponents argue that a new tax on consumption would raise the needed revenues to close the deficit gap without the negative economic effects of raising the income tax.

    However, rather than putting Washington’s fiscal house back in order, a VAT is more likely to grow the size of government and encourage growth in spending—effects that would be counterproductive to its intended purpose.

    Recent analysis by Douglas Holtz-Eakin and Cameron Smith finds that in addition to the existence of a “strong, indisputable, positive relationship between use of a VAT and government spending as a fraction of GDP,” evidence points to a causal relationship between the creation of a VAT and growth in government.

    Existing evidence already supports a correlation between the VAT and growth in spending in countries around the world. Holtz-Eakin and Smith sought to uncover whether it was the significant revenues a VAT raises that cause spending to increase or whether “the adoption of a VAT is evidence of the desire for a larger government so that the causal arrow runs from a taste for Leviathan to a VAT, and not the reverse.”

    Their findings show that it’s the former: a VAT enables bigger government and fuels “increases in the size of the public sector.”

    The VAT is currently discussed within the context of deficit reduction. But a VAT encourages increases in spending and growth in government; thus, far from achieving its goal of heightened fiscal responsibility, using this mechanism to increase taxes for Americans could instead have the opposite effect. In Politico, Holtz-Eakin and Smith discuss the feasibility of using a VAT to replace the current tax system as sweeping tax reform. Though the VAT could be an improvement over the current tax code—so long as it replaced it entirely—when pursued as a means to close the deficit as an add-on to the current tax system, it would create a new and dangerous set of issues.

    Instead, to reduce the deficit, Congress should focus on the real problem at hand: spending. As Holtz-Eakin and Smith write, “The deficit problem is excessive spending—not inadequate revenues. In 2010, outlays are projected to be 25.2 percent of gross domestic product—about $1.2 trillion higher than the typical 20 percent of GDP in the postwar era. Coincidentally, that’s about the size of the projected deficit in 2020.”

    Entitlement spending—especially on Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security—is growing on autopilot at an alarming rate. These three programs alone, excluding net interest, comprise 56 percent of all federal expenditures. A reduction in spending, especially within these programs, is the right course to take to reduce federal deficits.

    Posted in Economics [slideshow_deploy]

    2 Responses to More Evidence against the VAT

    1. Steve Abramson, Sout says:

      There is a practical limit to how much you can cut Social Security and Medicare. The public will not accept draconian cuts, or even likely 5% cuts. Yet, we are currently spending 3 dollars for every 2 dollars in federal revenues. Would you rather increase income taxes, or have a consumption tax? That is what it will come down to after you cut everything else as far as you can…social welfare, military included.

      The VAT should be introduced, now, as a revenue-neutral substitute for the Corporate Income Tax, and when the economy strengthens, we will have the tool in place to increase taxes to prevent the collapse of the dollar.

      Steve Abramson, VAT-US.com

    2. Elaine Brooks, Louis says:

      The only thing a VAT tax will do is decrease sales of non-essential goods. Many people are barely managing as it is, and if a new tax is added on various goods we simply won't buy them. Lower sales hurts businesses, puts some out of business even, and will cause others to let workers go to make up the difference. A VAT tax will drive our economy into bankruptcy.

      The solution for our government isn't to keep raising and raising taxes, but to cut spending. It's just that simple, and just that obvious. Why they can't see it is beyond me.

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.

    ×