Re: (OPE-L) taxation and public finance in Marxian literature

From: Anders Ekeland (anders.ekeland@ONLINE.NO)
Date: Wed May 19 2004 - 10:45:08 EDT

I'll think that 95% taxation will not happen. If the majority of people see
the very high incomes as fundamentally illegitimate, then we will have a
radical reorganisation of society, change of property relations etc.

But I would like to introduce another issue, the bureaucratic and political
down-sides of progressive taxes.

At 22:16 15.05.2004, Paul Cockshott wrote about progressive taxes:

>In this sense European social democracy has already incorporated many
>communist principles.

One might discuss if progressive taxes is a communist principle, in any
case it is one of the important slogans of the Manifesto that the soc.dems
have implemented to a certain degree.

And I think that it certainly was a good slogan. BUT, we must not loose
sight of the fact that the world has changed since then. By not changing
fundamentally the property relations and the income structure connected
with them, the soc.dems avoided attacking the distribution of income
generated by the market directly. This in my opinion had negative
consequences for the struggle for ideological hegemony.

The soc.dems kind of accepted the efficiency of the marked, but wanted to
correct a bit the income distribution it generated.

I do not at all believe the that taxes creates "inefficiencies" in the
economy, there is a real problem that Progressive taxes creates  a not
enormous, but significant bureaucracy. It also turns wage-earners attention
to all the nitty-gritty details of the tax system. That is how to avoid taxes.

It also is a problem that the middle-classes are "hit" by progressive taxes
that comes in at certain thresholds, creating some bizarre effects of small
pay-rises in that area. But the major problem being that they are
constantly outdated so that everybody pays them = no progressive
effect.  (If you set them too high - no real effect - to few very rich
people that are not able to conceal their income. "You pay as much tax as
you think is politically correct", is the thinking in those circles, if one
is to believe the pink press)

To what extent the taxes are progressive f.ex in Norway is really a debate.
There are signs that with all the loop-holes, different and complicated
rules (accumulated over time to stop tax fraud) the system is not very
progressive, it is just complicated.

The property tax has a problem in Norway with poor/ordinary people owning
valuable houses (inherited) but have small incomes, they are the
foot-soldiers for the right wing attacks on property and fortune taxes in

I have started thinking that in maybe a non-refundable transaction tax
would be better, instead of the refundable VAT that is a major source of
tax income in Norway today. This VAT - is only paid by persons. The
refunding system creates a lot of paper and control mechanism. And since
the percentage is 24% - it is always tempting to "strike a deal" with the
plumber, the electrician etc.  - it encourages the growth of a black
economy - also among working people. Tax cheating becomes a legitimized,
becomes a routine.

A non-refundable tax of f.ex 5% would tax would be much simpler, it might
attack some of the of wasteful activities in the wholesale and retail
trade. It would make consumption more expensive, as opposed to non-marked
oriented, voluntary activities.

In a country like Norway it is the "masses" that have to pay the taxes
anyhow since a large part of consumption is publicly organised. This being
the case - a simple, non-bureaucratic system is clearly to be preferred. A
system that also makes the firms pay out of their profits.

When "people" complained that a transaction/sales tax would not be
progressive, the left could just say that the real problem is the unjust
remunerations of different types of work in the market place. That could
strengthen the support for the TUC's efforts to raise the wages of the
lowest paid - and make people more critical of capitalism as a system. In
short,  it could be politically be more productive to spell clearly out
that we dislike the income differences, instead of using such a blunt and
bureaucratic weapon as progressive taxes.

It is a problem for the left of the situation that the right-wing populist
party gets a lot of votes among the core of industrial and/or unionized
workers for their opposition to the *complicated* tax system. Although the
full digitalization has made the actual filling out of the forms very easy
for most of us. The rich still uses a tax-lawyer to find the loop-holes.
The only tax they really pay today is the VAT (often not even that since
they have part of their private consumption through their firms!) - and the
fees (water, garbage etc.).

Is there any radical literature on tax-systems?

Anders Ekeland

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