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Spread it out, lower the rates

Friday, Jul 18, 2014

* Bruce Rauner’s “plan” to lower income taxes and kinda sorta replace a few dollars of them with a new sales tax on services is part of a pattern among Republican governors. Here’s a New York Times story from January of 2013

Republican governors are moving aggressively to cut personal and corporate income taxes, including proposals that would increase reliance on state sales taxes, setting up ambitious experiments in tax reform that could shape what is possible on a national level. […]

In Louisiana, Gov. Bobby Jindal is pushing to repeal the state’s personal and corporate income taxes and make up the lost revenue through higher sales taxes. Gov. Dave Heineman of Nebraska iscalling for much the same thing in his state. Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas wants to keep in place what was supposed to be a temporary increase in the state sales tax to help pay for his plan to lower and eventually end his state’s income tax.

Along the way these governors are taking small first steps into a debate over what kind of tax system most encourages growth in a 21st-century economy. In particular they are focusing attention on the idea, long championed by conservatives but accepted up to a point by economists of all stripes, that the economy would be better served by focusing taxation on consumption rather than on income.

Taxing consumption has the potential to lift economic growth by encouraging more savings and investment. But the shift could also increase inequality by reducing taxes predominantly for the wealthy, who spend a smaller share of their income than middle- and lower-income people.

“The question of whether we should tax income or whether we should tax spending is really a proxy for a different debate,” said Joseph Henchman, vice president for state projects at the Tax Foundation, a conservative-leaning research organization. “Everyone agrees we’ll get more growth with consumption taxes. It’s just that some people prioritize fairness.”

If you “encourage more savings and investment” through taxation, then how does that inject any demand into the economy? Demand drives growth. By their own logic, they’d drive consumption down, which would decrease demand, which would decrease growth.

* More

For Mr. Jindal and other Republican governors who are considering a presidential run in 2016, there are obvious political benefits to having a robust income tax-cutting record to present to conservative primary voters.

But Democrats say the approach would lead to cutbacks in education, health care and other vital services while shifting relatively more of the tax burden to those who can least afford it.

“These aren’t pro-growth policies — they’re shell games that reward the wealthiest Americans at the expense of everyone else,” said Danny Kanner, a spokesman for the Democratic Governors Association.

Cutting a billionaire’s income taxes while raising sales/service taxes on the broader economy would indeed help that billionaire.

* Even so, I generally favor broader taxation at lower rates. Rauner’s service tax idea is just a first step. It could be broadened much further to take advantage of that sector’s historic annual growth. But that ought to be accompanied by a lower sales tax rate. It doesn’t have to be revenue neutral, but people should be given a break overall.

* And the same goes for income taxes. According to the Civic Federation

The individual income tax base is expected to grow at a rate of only 1.9% compared to the retirement income growth rate of 6.5%. […]

The Illinois Comptroller estimates that this exemption of federally taxable retirement income reduced the State’s individual income tax revenues by $2.0 billion in FY2012.

So, what does Illinois do? It taxes slow-growth individual income at 5 percent and doesn’t tax high-growth retirement income at all. That doesn’t make sense.

Spread it out, lower the rate.

Easier said than done, of course. Retirees by definition have a lot of extra time on their hands for things like screaming at their legislators.

* But, if anyone has any real guts, they might wanna challenge the constitutionality of this retirement income exemption. From the Constitution

A tax on or measured by income shall be at a non-graduated rate. At any one time there may be no more than one such tax imposed by the State for State purposes on individuals and one such tax so imposed on corporations.

We’re only supposed to have one personal, non-graduated income tax rate for individuals in Illinois, but we actually have two, and one of them is decidedly graduated (at the rate of zero).

/rant

- Posted by Rich Miller        

42 Comments
  1. - SAP - Friday, Jul 18, 14 @ 12:25 pm:

    At the risk of sounding like a class warrior, Illinois seniors get a couple big tax breaks, just for being old. To wit: Retirement income is not taxed at all in Illinois and senior homestead exemptions give seniors huge property tax breaks. Neither of these breaks are based on need or ability to pay, they are just examples of pandering to people who vote. As a result, the rest of us pay higher taxes.


  2. - The Doc - Friday, Jul 18, 14 @ 12:31 pm:

    Amen, Rich.

    Brownback’s experiment in Kansas has been an epic failure, so much so that a stable full of state GOPers have endorsed his Dem opponent - who also happens to be leading in the polls.

    In Kansas.

    That’s why it’s encouraging to see Rauner at least float the concept of slaying a few sacred cows, even if it’s accompanied by some cowardly and unsound recommendations meant to soften the political blow.


  3. - Esteban - Friday, Jul 18, 14 @ 12:35 pm:

    Is Rauner really a billionaire or is this merely
    hyperbole from Camp Quinn? I’ve been under the
    impression that he is NOT.


  4. - Bill White - Friday, Jul 18, 14 @ 12:35 pm:

    === If you “encourage more savings and investment” through taxation, then how does that inject any demand into the economy? Demand drives growth. By their own logic, they’d drive consumption down, which would decrease demand, which would decrease growth. ===

    This is the crux of the debate. The current generation of GOP politicians deny that demand is relevant and say Keynes has been proven wrong.


  5. - john - Friday, Jul 18, 14 @ 12:41 pm:

    Rich - Spreading it out and lowering the rate may work with sales tax and capital gains, but when it comes to income it doesn’t work and here is why: http://acivilamericandebate.com/2011/04/10/the-30-year-growth-of-income-inequality/

    The Civic Committee points out that retirement income grows faster than wage income. That is only when you count all wage earners. If you eliminate the bottom 99% of wage earners, you see income growth rates in the 6-8% range and even higher for those with the highest incomes.

    If we use the Civic Committee’s same theory - tax the highest growing sectors of income in the state. The real income growth in the country and the state is all in the top 0.5% of income earners. If we tax everyone at the same rate for their income we are actually hurting poorer families because their incomes have been shirking over time. To capture the revenue that the state needs, higher income individuals should pay higher tax rates and lower income people should pay lower income tax rates.


  6. - Concerned - Friday, Jul 18, 14 @ 12:43 pm:

    Bill White is right. The Republican notion that more lower taxes = more investment = growth ignores that (1) there is a record amount of cash on corprate balance sheets–sitting idle becuase no capital investments are worth making with demand so low; (2) more savings and investments will produce more idle cash. Go back to step one. We need to focus on creating more demand.


  7. - Rich Miller - Friday, Jul 18, 14 @ 12:45 pm:

    === To capture the revenue that the state needs, higher income individuals should pay higher tax rates===

    OK, but you gotta amend the Constitution to do that. Good luck with that impossible climb.


  8. - Chris - Friday, Jul 18, 14 @ 12:49 pm:

    “The Civic Committee points out that retirement income grows faster than wage income. That is only when you count all wage earners. If you eliminate the bottom 99% of wage earners, you see income growth rates in the 6-8% range and even higher for those with the highest incomes.”

    What if you eliminate the bottom 99% of retirees? What is the growth rate of retirement income for the 1% of retirees?

    I bet its a LOT higher than 6-8%.

    Give retirees a $30k exemption, tax everything above that as OI. Done.


  9. - john - Friday, Jul 18, 14 @ 12:51 pm:

    Rich - I wasn’t saying it was probable. I was extrapolating a theory based on the Civic Committee’s theory.


  10. - Fed up - Friday, Jul 18, 14 @ 12:57 pm:

    I’m all for broadening the sales tax, I doubt that lowering the income tax to 3% is a good idea with states debt and pension issues. Quinn refuses to increase revenue through gambling or oil production so taxes are all that’s left. Well, maybe a back sale


  11. - Norseman - Friday, Jul 18, 14 @ 1:03 pm:

    === The individual income tax base is expected to grow at a rate of only 1.9% compared to the retirement income growth rate of 6.5%. […] ===

    It would have been nice if they had sourced these numbers. I’d have to see it from a creditable source before accepting this statement as fact.

    In reviewing the CF article, I found it interesting that they suggest exempting the first $50,000 of retirement income from taxation. To me this suggests a graduated income tax which I thought was verboten to the business types.

    The discussion regarding the fairness of exempting retirement income from the income tax is appropriate. [Although selfishly I’d like to keep the current system.] Shifting the majority of the tax burden from income to sales taxes is not appropriate. Sales taxes in general are regressive.

    With respect to Rich’s suggestion of a lawsuit regarding the retirement income exemption, it would be an interesting case. I suspect the retiree response is that the State has the right to exempt a class of persons by the type of income, but it can’t exempt persons by how much of a taxable income they make.


  12. - Chris - Friday, Jul 18, 14 @ 1:03 pm:

    Fed up: “Well, maybe a [bake] sale”

    PQ can get the Cupcake Girl to do it! At $3/cupcake, that’s only about 10,000 cupcakes for every single person in the state, and we’d be in good shape!

    Uhoh–that probably violates the Cupcake Girl regulation exemptions. Back to the drawing board!


  13. - MrJM (@MisterJayEm) - Friday, Jul 18, 14 @ 1:07 pm:

    Is Rauner really a billionaire or is this merely hyperbole from Camp Quinn? I’ve been under the impression that he is NOT.

    The watch and Carhartt are working!

    – MrJM


  14. - Chris - Friday, Jul 18, 14 @ 1:08 pm:

    Norseman: “It would have been nice if they had sourced these numbers. I’d have to see it from a creditable source before accepting this statement as fact.”

    I’ll bet you a dollar that a big piece of that difference in growth is bc of the approaching first wave of baby boomer retirements–if the working age population is flat, but retiree population growing by ~4%, then that’s basically the difference between the growth in “base”, right?


  15. - Chris - Friday, Jul 18, 14 @ 1:09 pm:

    “The watch and Carhartt are working!”

    If you count the $19 for the watch, I think it puts him over the Billion mark. But he’s depreciated it now.


  16. - Grandson of Man - Friday, Jul 18, 14 @ 1:19 pm:

    I absolutely support a tax on my retirement income in Illinois. I support pension reform and didn’t even mind the possibly-illegal reform that is in court. It’s a progressive reform, and I support it because I think it will do the state tremendous good. These things are less of a big deal to me compared to other things like collective bargaining rights and tax fairness–but that’s just me.

    “The real income growth in the country and the state is all in the top 0.5% of income earners. If we tax everyone at the same rate for their income we are actually hurting poorer families because their incomes have been shirking over time.”

    This is why I don’t support totally getting rid of income taxes and substituting them for service taxes. That’s an ALEC-type of model, and politicians like Gov. Nikki Haley and Gov. Brownback of Kansas are ALEC-type of politicians. This model seems to be meant to divest certain wealthy entities of as much tax liability as possible.

    States that have higher income taxes than us seem to be doing okay, so these are tax models that rebut the ALEC-type models.

    I support paying the current income tax and also having a “millionaire surcharge” type of tax, so that our taxes can be more in line with other “high-growth” states, i.e. states with progressive income taxes and higher top tax rates.


  17. - bored now - Friday, Jul 18, 14 @ 1:25 pm:

    ah, balancing these state budgets on the backs of poor people. how noble! but at least they won’t complain (or vote), right???

    i guess if lincoln was alive today and gave the gettysburg speech, republican governors (and candidates) would insist that he say, “government of the rich, by the rich and for the rich”…


  18. - Andrew Szakmary - Friday, Jul 18, 14 @ 1:33 pm:

    I think Illinois should tax retirement income. The only caveat is that, almost by definition, retirees are very likely less tied to the state than working people with jobs. Tax them too much, and a not insignificant portion of them may move out of state. On those who do, you also lose the property tax, sales tax, gas tax revenue, etc. If retirement income is taxed, I think the amount of the exemption (if any) should be carefully studied, because the revenue-maximizing amount for state and local government combined may not be zero.


  19. - PublicServant - Friday, Jul 18, 14 @ 1:35 pm:

    Illinois currently has only one rate on taxable income. An exemption for retirement income is not a second rate of zero. Go ahead and sue. The Supremes will spank you very much.


  20. - PublicServant - Friday, Jul 18, 14 @ 1:37 pm:

    Grandson of Man has it right.


  21. - Rich Miller - Friday, Jul 18, 14 @ 1:37 pm:

    ===An exemption for retirement income is not a second rate of zero===

    The Supremes have knocked down other exemptions as being so high that they amount to graduated. So, I think it’s possible.


  22. - Anonymous - Friday, Jul 18, 14 @ 1:37 pm:

    Tax my retirement income and I leave the state. No reason to stay, and others will follow.


  23. - Ghost - Friday, Jul 18, 14 @ 1:38 pm:

    So let’s exempt income of less then 1 million, and tax everyone with 1 mil or over at the single rate of 8%


  24. - Rich Miller - Friday, Jul 18, 14 @ 1:39 pm:

    Ghost, read my previous post. You can’t do that here.


  25. - Anon - Friday, Jul 18, 14 @ 1:49 pm:

    “If you “encourage more savings and investment” through taxation, then how does that inject any demand into the economy? Demand drives growth. By their own logic, they’d drive consumption down, which would decrease demand, which would decrease growth.”

    This also why income inequality matters.

    “We rich people have been falsely persuaded by our schooling and the affirmation of society, and have convinced ourselves, that we are the main job creators. It’s simply not true. There can never be enough super-rich Americans to power a great economy. I earn about 1,000 times the median American annually, but I don’t buy thousands of times more stuff. My family purchased three cars over the past few years, not 3,000. I buy a few pairs of pants and a few shirts a year, just like most American men. I bought two pairs of the fancy wool pants I am wearing as I write, what my partner Mike calls my “manager pants.” I guess I could have bought 1,000 pairs. But why would I? Instead, I sock my extra money away in savings, where it doesn’t do the country much good.”

    Read more: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/06/the-pitchforks-are-coming-for-us-plutocrats-108014_Page3.html#ixzz37qbZu0SU


  26. - Chris - Friday, Jul 18, 14 @ 1:50 pm:

    “Tax my retirement income and I leave the state.”

    As everyone (rightly) says to the bozos like Jimmy John whats-his-name: Don’t let the door hit you.


  27. - steve schnorf - Friday, Jul 18, 14 @ 1:52 pm:

    norseman, try COGFA for the income tax growth rate here in Illinois


  28. - Norseman - Friday, Jul 18, 14 @ 2:17 pm:

    Unless I’m misunderstanding tax law, income generated in the state is taxed regardless of where you live. As a state pensioner, I can’t run away to avoid an Illinois income tax.


  29. - forwhatitsworth - Friday, Jul 18, 14 @ 2:29 pm:

    I think Chris at 1:50 would eventually eat his words. I would predict thousands of retirees, including myself would be gone fast enough that the door wouldn’t have a chance to hit me (in the ass)if retirement income is taxed which removes a major incentive to stay. Simple economics.


  30. - PublicServant - Friday, Jul 18, 14 @ 2:44 pm:

    Before we leave, however, we’ll vote.


  31. - Dan Johnson - Friday, Jul 18, 14 @ 2:47 pm:

    Is Norseman right? That’s a really important question — does a Florida resident collecting an Illinois public pension pay Illinois income tax (if we didn’t exempt retirement income)? I thought you only pay based on the state where you live not on where the income is generated, but if Norseman is right, then the single biggest concern about not taxing retirement income disappears. Any experts willing to educate?


  32. - Michelle Flaherty - Friday, Jul 18, 14 @ 3:27 pm:

    Where will you go? Indiana? Indiana taxes retirement income. Most states with taxes do.


  33. - kimocat - Friday, Jul 18, 14 @ 3:39 pm:

    No Norseman is not right. You pay state tax where you live, not where your check comes from. I live out of state and pay my state’s income taxes on a portion of my Illinois pension.


  34. - JS Mill - Friday, Jul 18, 14 @ 3:40 pm:

    If a person receives a Illinois public pension but is the resident of another state they are not taxed in Illinois. Martire has it right, tax pension income over $75,000, 1% tax on services, reduce property tax by 25%. Martire has always had it right which is precisely while the politicians have not listened. For those who will move if retirement income is taxed I would say that I am sorry to hear that. I think once you add up the costs of moving and what the real costs of living in another state are it will not be worth it. If the numbers are there I would question what you might be moving too. I am not looking to run people off, just a reasonable level of taxation to support the public services. That leads to the debate on what those should be and the need to control our legislatures addiction to creating new programs (without consideration of funding).


  35. - Dan Johnson - Friday, Jul 18, 14 @ 3:56 pm:

    Thanks


  36. - Anonymous - Friday, Jul 18, 14 @ 4:02 pm:

    Michelle Flaherty, Do some research. There are states out there that do not tax retirement income. Florida and Nevada are 2, out of about 10.


  37. - Michelle Flaherty - Friday, Jul 18, 14 @ 4:41 pm:

    The key words being “most states”


  38. - Just the Facts - Friday, Jul 18, 14 @ 4:46 pm:

    Technically, retirement income is not exempted, it is subtracted from federal adjusted gross income in determining taxable income. It is one of many distractions granted to both individuals and corporations. As I recall, it was included in the original 1969 income tax act. From a legalleg it is no more vulnerable to legal challenge than any of the other distractions.

    I believe it should be eliminated, but I am of the opinion that legislation will be required as a court challenge would not succeed.


  39. - Just the Facts - Friday, Jul 18, 14 @ 4:48 pm:

    Spell check seems to want to change subtraction to distractions


  40. - Norseman - Friday, Jul 18, 14 @ 4:51 pm:

    I’m pretty sure I’m right. If you have income derived from Illinois, you get taxed no matter where you live. Goggle it.

    Also, remember that this is a hypothetical talking about taxing retirement income in Illinois. I know it’s not done now, but if so you can’t escape that tax by moving if your retirement income comes from Illinois.


  41. - Chris - Monday, Jul 21, 14 @ 6:29 pm:

    “I think Chris at 1:50 would eventually eat his words.”

    Why would I care? I’m not retired–I’d rather live in a state where the political will slants in favor of the working man, and against the retiree. Once I retire, my interests will flip.

    All you retirees had the ‘advantage’ of a state that didn’t pay it’s bills while you are working, and now that the bill is due, want to not have to pay anything.

    Note: I have exactly *zero* relatives older than me living in Illinois.


  42. - Chris - Monday, Jul 21, 14 @ 6:35 pm:

    Norseman:

    “I’m pretty sure I’m right. If you have income derived from Illinois, you get taxed no matter where you live.”

    I had always had the same thought, but someone here cited to a federal statute that states the contrary. But I can’t find it now…will try again, tho.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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