The case for lowering the top tax rate

Richard McGrath blogs at Not PC on how if you want the rich to pay more , you should them less. Recall that only half of our 100 wealthiest New Zealanders pay the top rate. Under the Goofynomics plan to have the top rate at 39% and the corporate rate at 28%, I’d say the number paying the top rate would drop to under 1/4.

McGrath quotes Keynes:

“[T]axation may be so high as to defeat its object, [and] a reduction of taxation will run a better chance than an increase of balancing the budget.”

And then he goes on to give some examples:

  • UK, 1979: Chancellor Geoffrey Howe cuts marginal tax rate from 83% (!) to 60%. Before the cuts, the top 1% of taxpayers were paying 11% of total income tax received. Nine years later, despite the hefty cuts, they were paying 14% of total income tax.
  • UK, 1980s: Chancellor Nigel Lawson cuts marginal rate further, to 40%. By 1997, the top 1% of taxpayers are paying 21% of income tax received. Thus halving the marginal tax rate doubled the income tax receipts from the wealthiest 1%.
  • US, 1920s: Presidents Coolidge and Harding reduced the top tax rate from 73% to 25%. The share of tax paid by earners making over $100,000 nearly doubled between 1921 and 1925, from 28% to 51%.
  • US, 1961: The top tax rate under Eisenhower had crept up to a staggering 91%. The Democrats supported by Kennedy dropped this to 70%. He stated, a few months before a sniper removed the occipital lobes of his cerebral hemispheres: “[T]ax rates are too high today and tax revenues are too low, and the soundest way to riase revenues in the long run is to cut the tax rates…” As a result of the Kennedy tax cuts, those earning over $50,000 increased the amount of tax paid by 40%, and paid 15% of income tax received in 1966, as opposed to 12% in 1963. Total income tax received went up from $69b in 1964 to $96b in 1968.
  • US, 1981: Under President Reagan, Congress reduced the top tax rate from 70% to 50%. Between 1981 and 1988 the top 1% of tax earners increased their share of tax received from 18 to 28%, while the bottom 50% of taxpayers decreased their contribution to income tax received from 7.5% to 5.7% over this same period.
  • Canada, 1990: Top federal tax rate cut from 45% to 29%; share of tax paid by top 10% of taxpayers increases from 29% to 45%.

Goff should know this. He was one of those who voted to lower the top tax rate to 33% in the 1980s.

If you spend all your after tax income, then those on the top tax rate already pay 43% of their income in tax, when you include GST. We’ll leave ACC out of this for now. I think that’s more than enough.

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