Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Abolish Inflation Tax

John T. Plecnik writes an interesting piece on the "Inflation Tax"

Inflation erodes the purchasing power of money and distorts some income tax liabilities upward, which in turn discourages savings and investment. When inflation is caused by the central bank “printing” money to fund deficit spending, it results in a transfer of real wealth from the holders of dollars or assets denominated in dollars to the government and, in normative terms, may be conceptualized as a tax. The effect of the so-called inflation tax is regressive, because low-income taxpayers often lack the sophistication or liquidity to invest in hedges against inflation.

Following the double-digit inflation of the late 1970s and early 1980s, the U.S. Treasury Department and a host of legal scholars proposed sweeping reforms to comprehensively index the Internal Revenue Code for inflation. However, their proposals were never enacted into law. Instead, Congress chose to respond to inflation on a case-by-case basis. Many of those responses, such as the preferential rate for capital gains, afford relief to the wealthy, but do little to help the poor and middle class. To counter the pernicious effects of inflation and make the Code more equitable, this article proposes an inflation tax credit. Under the proposal, low-income taxpayers may elect between (i) substantiating the average balance of their bank deposits and treasury bills to receive a credit based on that balance, and (ii) taking a standard credit based on their gross income.

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