THE AUTOMATED PAYMENT TRANSACTION (APT) TAX: A proposal to the President's Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform
I propose the replacement of our current system of individual and corporate income, sales, excise, capital gains, import and export duties, gift and estate taxes with a single comprehensive “revenue neutral” Automated Payment Transaction (APT) tax. The APT tax consists of a flat rate tax levied on all voluntary transactions. The total volume of transactions represents the broadest conceivable tax base and therefore requires the lowest conceivable marginal tax rate. Since the efficiency (misallocation) costs of a tax system tend to rise geometrically with the marginal tax rate, a massive reduction in tax rates can save an estimated $300 billion of misallocation costs associated with the current tax system. The APT tax is automatically assessed and collected when transactions are routinely settled through the electronic technology of the bank/payments clearing system with no deductions, exemptions, or exclusions. The APT tax also imposes an automatically collected tax on cash as it enters and leaves the banking system. All income and information tax returns are eliminated as taxes are digitally assessed and collected by the financial equivalent of the E-Z pass that is now used to speed traffic through a toll booth system on highways. The annual savings in compliance and administrative costs are estimated to be $200 billion per year. Unlike the “Fair Tax” or “National Sales Tax” proposals which are highly regressive, the flat rate APT tax introduces progressivity through the tax base since the total volume of transactions includes all asset transactions involving exchanges of titles to property. The wealthy carry out a disproportionate share of these asset exchanges and therefore bear a disproportionate burden of the tax despite its flat rate structure. The perceived fairness, even handedness and simplicity of the APT tax will greatly reduce tax evasion, which the IRS estimates to total $325 billion per year. Like all taxes, the APT tax creates new distortions which must be weighed against the benefits obtained by scrapping the current tax system. Scrapping the present tax system tax promises potential benefits estimated at $825 billion annually. The proposed APT tax is simple, comprehensible, fair and efficient, with minimal administrative and compliance costs. The burden of proof therefore rests with APT tax opponents who must demonstrate that its costs exceed the $825 billion of potential annual benefits.
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