VAT: Cure For Deficits?

Earlier this month BeSpacific linked to the U.S. Debt Clock, a site designed to inform the public of the US financial condition. “The numbers are laid out so as to give a complete real-time snap-shot of the country’s balance sheet. . . All the debt clocks are updated continuously.” The site uses government data to show different measures of the national debt. For example, the total US national debt now exceeds $12 trillion, with debt per each citizen approaching $40K and more than $110K per each taxpayer. In addition to US federal tax revenue of almost $2 trillion, the site lists the largest budget items for the federal government: $712 billion for Medicare/Medicaid, $642 billion for Social Security, $603 billion for defense/wars and $363 billion for interest on debt. The site also lists state revenues of just over $1 trillion along with state debt of an almost equal amount. In addition, there is data on money creation, trade numbers, business assets and employment statistics.

To deal with the growing national debt, the House leadership plans to raise the debt ceiling to nearly $14 trillion as part of a $626 billion bill next week to pay for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and other military programs in 2010. President Obama is expected to seek an additional $30 billion early next year to pay for the 30,000 troop buildup in Afghanistan with another $50 billion to pay for a six-month extension of unemployment benefits and health care insurance subsidies for the long-term jobless. With growing concern about the federal budget deficit, more than half of senior executives surveyed by the Tax Governance Institute expect some type of value-added tax (VAT) to be introduced in the US within five years according to a press release. A recent NY Times Many See the VAT Option as a Cure for Deficits explains why a value-added tax may be good for economic purposes but bad politics. A Congressional Research Service report A Value-Added Tax Contrasted With a National Sales Tax addressed the recommendations of President Bush’s Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform’s final report with analyses of both a national sales tax (NST) and a value-added tax (VAT). How the VAT works is explained in this short video:

The Brooklyn Law School Library has in its collection the print version of Value Added Tax: A Model Statute and Commentary by the ABA, Alan Schenk, Reporter (Call #KF6598.A95 1989) which contains the report of the ABA Section Committee on Value Added Tax, an introduction to value added tax, the text of a model statute, and commentary on the statutory language. It is available on Westlaw (Database ID:ABA-VALADTAX). See also Reducing the Deficit through Better Tax Policy by Diane Lim Rogers published by the Brookings Institution (Call #HJ2051 .R64 2007) (INTERNET).