GLOBAL ECONOMY DEMANDS TAX REFORM
January 4, 2006
Rather than just consigning America to a global game of economic catch-up, U.S. policymakers should look to Eastern European nations that have adopted successful fundamental tax reforms for answers, says Ryan Kool of the National Taxpayers Union (NTU).
There is persuasive evidence that flat-rate income tax systems can place countries on a solid competitive footing, says Kool. An analysis of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Russia -- the four countries that have had a flat tax in place the longest -- shows significant economic trends:
- Since Estonia ratified a flat tax in 1994, annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth has averaged about 6 percent since 1997 and one-tenth of its domestic base consisted of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in 2003.
- Revenues have also exceeded expectations, prompting policymakers to approve a cut in the 26 percent tax rate to 20 percent by 2007.
- During the first five years (1995-2000) of operating its flat tax, Lithuania's GDP jumped an average of 22 percent annually and has trended at 7.4 percent since 2000; similarly, Latvia's GDP has gained over 11 percent each year since 1997, helping to spur annual growth in government revenues of roughly 10.5 percent during this period.
- Despite a large "shadow economy," Russia has experienced a 35 percent annual increase in government revenue since enacting a flat tax in 2001 -- perhaps the most convincing case thus far that the simplicity and lower rate of a flat tax encourages compliance with tax laws.
The flat tax is spreading to Western Europe, into countries with stagnating economies and skyrocketing unemployment levels. Indeed, the United States, with its 6.6 billion-hour tax paperwork burden and dramatic decrease in FDI inflows, should be next, says Kool.
Source: Editorial, "To Compete in a Global Economy, U.S. Must Discard Backward-Looking Tax Policy, Study Concludes," Capital Ideas, September/October 2005; based upon: Ryan Kool, "The Flat Tax: A Worthy Competitor in the Global Economic Game," National Taxpayers Union Foundation, September 14, 2005.
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