Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Third time's a charm?

I've done multiple versions of talks, using slides, that discuss the destination-based cash flow tax - a proposal that (despite my respect for and friendship with its leading academic proponents) I consider greatly overrated conceptually.  The fullest version of the slides is here, but a more recent (though shorter) version is here.

When I say the DBCFT is overrated conceptually, I mean that it's really just a VAT (with a couple of extra features) in lieu of the existing entity-level corporate income tax - based on the sometimes undefended, and clearly erroneous, assumption that one can only have one or the other, not both. Discussing it tends to obscure or crowd out properly focusing on the issues it actually raises - such as whether the origin-based corporate income tax rate should actually be lowered all the way to 0%, what with the individual income tax generally remaining in place (and serving some desirable purposes, even if imperfectly). So my critique is distinct from, albeit hardly incompatible with, arguing that the DBCFT oughtn't to be enacted - a question that cannot really be answered properly until one has done more to specify the rest of the surrounding fiscal system.

Because the DBCFT, unlike its forebear David Bradford's X-tax, isn't embedded in a system that also specifies how individuals are generally taxed, it reflects a failure to address one of the most biggest questions, which is how to integrate it with the rest. And sometimes less is less, not somehow more.

My skepticism has certainly influenced my titles. The first version was called: "The Rise and Fall of the Destination-Based Cash Flow Tax: What Was That All About?" The second was called "A Requiem for the Destination-Based Cash Flow Tax."

They say (never matter who "they" are) that the third time's a charm. And, as I've been asked to discuss the DBCFT in a conference at Munich next month, I've been working on a new version, to be posted after that conference, currently called "Goodbye to All That? A Requiem for the Destination-Based Cash Flow Tax." Yes, the degree of originality in the titles appears to be declining precipitously.

But also, I've decided (I think) to write up a textual version of those slides that will appear in a conference volume sometime next year, presumably after showing up on SSRN with a link that I'll post here.

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