Taxes are a necessary aspect of any modern society, as they provide the government with the resources needed to provide public goods and services such as infrastructure, healthcare, education, and security. However, not all taxes are created equal, and policymakers must take into account various criteria when designing and implementing tax policies. In this blog post, we will discuss five tax criteria: economic efficiency, equity, adequacy, feasibility, and transparency.
- Economic Efficiency: Economic efficiency refers to the ability of taxes to raise revenue with minimal distortion to economic behavior. Taxes can create economic distortions by altering the incentives of taxpayers, which can lead to changes in their behavior. For example, high taxes on labor income may discourage people from working, while taxes on capital may discourage investment. A tax system that minimizes these distortions is considered economically efficient. Policymakers can achieve economic efficiency by designing taxes that are broad-based, have low rates, and minimize exemptions.
- Equity: Equity refers to the fairness of the tax system. One way a tax system is considered fair when taxpayers are required to contribute to the cost of public goods and services according to their ability to pay. The ability to pay is usually determined by income or wealth. A progressive tax system, where the effective tax rate increases as income or wealth increases, or a proportional tax system, where the effective tax rate is the same across income groups, is typically considered more equitable than a regressive tax system, where the tax rate decreases as income or wealth increases. Policymakers can achieve equity by designing taxes that are progressive or proportional, provide targeted tax credits or deductions to low-income households, and eliminate tax loopholes that benefit only segments of the population. A second way to consider equity is through the benefit principle, where a tax (or fee) structure is designed to target those who benefit from a service at a higher level than those who do not (at least directly). Policymakers can achieve this form of equity by designing taxes (and fee) structures where the consumption of the service or good is linked to the use of it. This is justification for many taxes and fees like a fuel tax which finances roads and highways.
- Adequacy: Adequacy refers to the ability of taxes to raise enough revenue to fund public goods and services. Policymakers must ensure that the tax system is capable of generating sufficient revenue to meet the government’s spending obligations. Adequate taxes can help maintain public confidence in the government’s ability to provide essential services, promote economic stability, and reduce the risk of fiscal crises. Policymakers can achieve adequacy by designing taxes that are broad-based, have moderate rates, and are regularly adjusted to reflect changes in the economy.
- Feasibility: Feasibility refers to the ease of administering and enforcing the tax system. A tax system that is too complex or difficult to enforce can result in high compliance costs, tax evasion, and reduced revenue. Policymakers must consider the administrative and enforcement costs of implementing tax policies when designing the tax system. Simplicity and clarity can improve the feasibility of the tax system. Policymakers can achieve feasibility by designing taxes that are easy to understand, have simple compliance requirements, and use modern technology to improve administration and enforcement.
- Transparency: Transparency refers to the openness and accessibility of tax information. A transparent tax system provides taxpayers with clear and understandable information about the tax policies, tax rates, and tax revenues. Transparency can help promote public trust in the tax system, reduce tax evasion, and increase compliance. Policymakers can achieve transparency by providing clear and accessible tax information, engaging in public consultations when designing tax policies, and publishing regular reports on tax revenues and expenditures.
In conclusion, tax policies play a vital role in any modern society. Policymakers must consider various criteria, including economic efficiency, equity, adequacy, feasibility, and transparency when designing and implementing tax policies. By incorporating these criteria into tax policies, policymakers can create a fair, efficient, and effective tax system that promotes economic growth, social justice, and public trust.
Consulting and updating your revenue manual is the first step of the administrative process for revenue forecasting. At least, that is what I say when I teach revenue forecasting. Of course, when I then turn to the course participants and ask how many of them have revenue manuals in their jurisdiction only one or two raise their hands. In fact, there are some years when no one raises their hand.
There are many certification programs involved with property tax. I suggest that every NC property tax student be familiar with which organizations provide certifications, credit hours, and the requirements of those organizations. A certification or designation is required by law for some positions. Two are required in the assessor’s office. If you are one of the 100 appointed county assessors in North Carolina or a county appraiser, you must be certified by the NC Department of Revenue. Becoming and being a certified assessor or appraiser includes requirements for initial certification (certifying education) and also follow-up requirements for continuing education. If you represent yourself as a real estate appraiser but do not fill one of the two positions above, NC law requires your certification to be through the NC Appraisal Board. All other certification programs for property tax are not legally required in NC law but may be required by your employer or by your association. Perhaps you’re not currently in a position that is required to be certified but your future could lead you in that direction. Regardless, I think you should maintain your course records for attendance and successful completion of property tax courses. I have recognized uncertainty in this area over the years and it seems to be more so in recent times. I hope this post is a way to help bring us back to certainty. Continue reading
Guest Contributors: Hai (David) Guo and Can Chen
What is the most significant fiscal challenge for the municipal governments facing the unexpected outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic? It is no surprise that Florida city managers placed the forecasts for the pandemic’s impact on local revenues as the top priority, as local governments are revenue-driven entities. The tradeoff between revenue growth and stability has always been a concern for local governments. With procyclical fiscal policy, local governments usually face abrupt revenue shortfalls and high demand for public service during economic recession. The COVID-19 pandemic-induced recession is no exception. Furthermore, there is tremendous uncertainty regarding the duration of the pandemic, the magnitude and requirement of federal government aid, and the public’s behavioral change.
Recently I participated in a webinar for Kenan Flagler’s Tax Center. It covers state responses to the pandemic and policies being considered. While it is not focused on North Carolina or local governments, I think there is still much in there that is likely of interest to you all. Especially because we all know that what happens at the state level impacts the local level.
And my co-presenters (their bios are at the bottom) were amazing! One was named “The Most Influential Person on the Planet in State and Local Tax” by State Tax Notes and the other was identified by State Tax Notes as the “single most influential person in state taxation” and named as the publication’s inaugural Person of the Year.
The webinar is available here.
I have been having a great deal of conversations with folks across the state about what is going on with their sales taxes (and occupancy and food and beverage taxes). What has happened versus what was expected for FY21 and what they are thinking about for FY22 now that local governments are starting to begin their budget processes. I thought it might be useful to share some of the questions I have been getting and my answers to them and some of my broader thoughts about sales taxes and the pandemic, though it is no crystal ball. I am going to structure it like a q&a. I am not covering everything here and please reach out if there is more than I can help with.
- Q: Our sales taxes are recovering quickly, what are you seeing other places in the state?
- A: We are seeing that sales taxes have recovered more quickly than most people anticipated. That is great news, but I think a dose of caution should accompany it. First, we see a bump starting in in the June collections (so sales for the month of May) where it went from down 13.3% year-over-year to down 4% year-over-year and then by July (so June sales) it was up year-over-year by 10.75%. So that is all really promising, but we have to keep a few things in mind. 1) That is right when the state moved into Phase 2 and there may have been pent up demand. 2) That is when we have more generous unemployment benefits and federal stimulus, so people had more disposable income than they might otherwise have had. 3) Some people were deferring payments on rent and/or utilities, so they had less income than it looked like from their spending in that period. Also, that trend is not universal. Some areas are doing much better and others are having a slower recovery.
In a previous blog post, The COVID-19 Crisis and How North Carolina Local Governments are Budgeting for It, I laid out the results of a survey that the NCLM and the NCLGBA had conducted to counties and municipalities across the state in April. In this week’s blog post I am going to provide an overview of an updated survey that was send out in May. This survey had fewer respondents, but also provides more up-to-date information about the strategies and plans that local governments in North Carolina have, with another full months of information and better understanding of how COVID-19 is impacting their jurisdiction.
Recently the North Carolina League of Municipalities (NCLM) and the North Carolina Local Government Budget Association (NCLGBA) partnered on a survey of county and municipal governments across the state to better understand how local governments are budgeting for FY21. There are 142 responses. 29 are from counties and 113 are from municipalities. See the map below to see the number of jurisdictions from each county area (total of the county and municipal responses).
“I can’t think of anything that shows you are more committed to your work and your profession than a professional designation. A job applicant who has a professional designation earns an automatic interview from me.”
Marcus Kinrade, AAS, RES
Wake County Tax Administrator
Where is the windfall promised by the South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc ruling? This is the first blog post in a short series about economic nexus, local sales and use taxes, and your revenue!
Well, first let’s all get on the same page. What is the South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc (Wayfair) ruling, and why do we care about it?