Tax Failures

The Foundry is offering a list of tax increases that went into effect with the start of the year, the fiscal cliff fiasco notwithstanding.  Here are some of them, and the Obama attack on jobs embodied in them is…interesting.

Payroll tax: increase in the Social Security portion of the payroll tax from 4.2% to 6.2% for workers.  This hits all Americans earning a paycheck—not just the “wealthy.”  For example, The Wall Street Journal calculated that the “typical U.S. family earning $50,000 a year” will lose “an annual income boost of $1,000.”

I have trouble with this.  Conservatives do themselves no good to tout this as a tax increase.  This is, in fact, merely the expiration of a payroll tax reduction that was purely temporary from the start, and advertised and passed as temporary.  Worse, this tax holiday was nothing but vote pandering while defunding an already failing Social Security System.

Tax rates on investment: increase in the rate on dividends and capital gains from 15 percent to 20 percent for taxable incomes over $450,000 ($400,000 for single filers).

Taxes on business investment: expiration of full expensing—the immediate deduction of capital purchases by businesses.

Another investment tax increase: 3.8 percent surtax on investment income for taxpayers with taxable income exceeding $250,000 ($200,000 for singles).

Medical device tax: 2.3 percent excise tax paid by medical device manufacturers and importers on all their sales.

These directly attack jobs and job creation.  With active disincentives on investments, these will, inevitably, fall.  With reduced investing, there is less capital available for business’ R&D, which represents new products in production, which represents new—and more—jobs in the producing.  With reduced investing, there is less capital available for business expansion, and such expansion translates directly into jobs.

Death tax: increase in the rate (on estates larger than $5 million) from 35 percent to 40 percent.

Another payroll tax hike: 0.9% increase in the Hospital Insurance portion of the payroll tax for incomes over $250,000 ($200,000 for single filers).

The increase in the death tax makes it harder for small business owners to pass on to their heirs their businesses.  This hits particularly hard businesses whose value is largely tied up in physical assets, like small manufacturers and small farmers.  These folks will be faced with an increasing likelihood of having to sell their businesses, or major components of them—things they’ve spent a lifetime building up—in order to pay the death vig.  These sales/downsizings represent existing jobs that will go away with the sale/downsize.

That last payroll tax increase also will hit the small business owner especially hard.  It just got more expensive to hire additional labor or to keep existing labor.  Moreover, there’s significant opportunity cost: that 0.9% tax represents money that now cannot be committed to R&D (already expensive for small businesses) in an effort to stay competitive; or committed to improved marketing in an effort to maintain/grow market share; or committed to payroll in the form of a new hire, pay raises, bonuses; or….


h/t The Spirit of Enterprise

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