稅務與市場之二

Paul Krugman有兩篇關於稅務的好文章,轉載于此以正視聽:

The Distributional Effect of Tax Cut-A Brief Note:

With taxes on the wealthy on the political radar, we’re going to drowning in a vast wave of double-talk and smothered by vast amounts of fuzzy math. Still, one has to try. So, a couple of notes.

One is that you have to beware of the old trick of saying “taxes”, then slipping into “income taxes”. Most Americans pay more payroll than income taxes, but the reverse is true at high incomes. So focusing only on income taxes makes it seem as if the rich pay much more of the burden than they really do.

Another, more subtle trick involves comparing percentage changes in taxes as opposed to tax changes as a percentage of income.

The starting point is that federal taxes are indeed progressive on average (although there are billionaires who pay a lower rate than their secretaries). And this in turn means that you have to be careful about the question when evaluating a change in taxes.

Suppose that it’s 1979, and individual A is a member of the working poor, paying 12 percent of his income in taxes — basically payroll tax and not much else. Meanwhile, individual B is very wealthy, and pays 40 percent of his income in taxes — as the very wealthy did on average 30 years ago.

Now suppose that 30 years of conservative governance lead to a fall of a quarter in both individuals’ average tax rates; A’s rate falls from 12 to 9, B’s from 40 to 30. Would it make sense to say that they have gained equally from tax cuts?

Clearly not. A’s after-tax income has risen from 88 to 91 percent of pretax income, a gain of 3.4 percent. B’s after-tax income has risen from 60 to 70 percent of pretax income, a gain of 16.7 percent. The distribution of after-tax income has become substantially less equal. And that’s the calculation I was doing here.

Now, right-wingers come back and say that this is what has to happen when you cut taxes. No, it doesn’t. And anyway, cutting taxes is itself a choice — and they’re a choice that then leads to demands that we cut programs for the poor and middle class to close the deficit those tax cuts created.

The point is that yes, tax policy these past 30 years has been very much tilted toward benefiting the rich.

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Millionaires, The Middle Class, and Taxes-Actual Numbers

Further to this post about whether the Obama/Boo-Fay — sorry, Obama/ Buffett with two t’s – claim is true: the Tax Policy Center has new numbers about the distribution of average tax rates by income class. Consider, in particular, the estimates of the combined income and payroll tax by income class; I’ve deleted a couple of columns to make the thing fit with more or less legible type:

Here’s how to read this: 40 percent of taxpayers with incomes between 30K and 40K pay more than 12.9 percent of their income in income and payroll taxes; meanwhile, 25 percent of people with incomes over $1M pay less than 12.6 percent of their income in these taxes. This suggests that there are a lot of very-high-income guys paying a lower tax rate than their secretaries.

And that doesn’t even take into account state and local taxes, which are quite regressive.

Taken as a whole, the US tax system is probably somewhat progressive — but not as much as you might think, especially at the upper end, and very erratically. There are a lot of rich people basically free-riding on the system.

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當我們考慮社會正義問題時我們不能靠考慮稅務公平,因爲稅務是財富再分配的主要機制,從稅制上我們可以發現政府/政客/官員自相矛盾之處。例如,中國一直強調發展「和諧社會」,讓人民分享經濟成果,但它只有到最近出現經濟危機才進行輕微的稅率調整。就算稅率得到調整,它也沒有做出一套有效的再分配機制,一般人要領取社會福利/保障依然受到很大的限制。再者,中國有一套混淆視聽的增值稅累退稅制。法律上說是企業支付增值稅,然而只要稍微想清楚,實質的增值稅務是由消費者支付的。不管你是窮還是富,你也要付同樣的稅額。

香港的稅務最高只去到16.5%,根本沒有累進的空間,又因爲沒有社會保險制度而沒有工資稅(payroll)。香港貧富懸殊是稅制所做成的。市民不發覺稅制有問題,老是以爲低稅就是好,但沒有想過低稅必然會出現看不見的稅務–高地價勾地、公共事業上市兼徵收高票價。堅持低稅「率」,而不是低邊際稅率–支付稅後的實際可支配收入的差異–的思想其實只是把稅務「黑市化」。鼓勵政府用其他不公開、不透明的方法收取公共事業開支,結果是出現了如港鐵、領匯等在名義上服務市民,實則蠶食市民收入的半公半私經營者,為官商勾結與使社會財富變成私人財富得的行爲取得合法依據。

要改善社會,必先認清楚社會問題。我每天都聽到很多人說有很多社會問題,卻沒辦法說出問題的根本在什麽地方,有些人甚至會提出比錯更錯的方法(歧視、排外等),實則無助於事。只有找到問題的根本你才可以找到最有效的解決方法。這就是科學的力量。

This entry was posted in 社會心理, 科學知識, 經濟學, 體制 and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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