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Tag Archives: Financial Products

Should One-Percenters Be Hated So Much

One of the reasons, which I bet is shared by many, that I hate politics: the deviation from the pressing agenda, scoring points from the mass by swaying their emotion, the loudest duck wins. It disgusts me. The argument that this is the means to the end, and hopefully we get someone decent elected and do something good, is just, not enough. The direction all the “discussion” lead the public discourse into, the momentum it created that pushes the societal focus into a frenzy state, and the impact on everyone’s mind, makes me hate God a bit (more). Sorry dude. And by politics I don’t mean stuff politicians do; I mean all the things that captures mass’ attention, becomes a campaign, and confined itself to represent a small group of interest. I don’t understand how occupiers are that much different from t-baggers.

Except that they are cuter maybe.

Anyways. When Mitt Romney’s tax returns were to be released and everyone was so excited to see how this one-percenter can defend his ridiculously low tax rate, my reaction was like when I find out (surprisingly) how many people are religious. Simply said, I don’t understand what the hype is all about.

People who believe one-percenters should be taxed at a higher rate thinks it is “fair”.  So where do we base this notion of “fairness”? This will be some kind of tax policy question, which I do not know enough about and wonder whether the ultimate battle on this ground will be somewhat ideological (which I both admire and despise).

But since the one-percenters derive most of their income from non-wage income, basically investment income, it is very interesting to see how this part of income is taxed, overall.

Capital income is money made out of money, not (directly) from anyone sweat and blood. Basically (I think) a premium the users pay to the owner of money to utilize this capital. It seems like rent (I am just making things up here, based on my understanding). Should this kind of profits be subject to a higher rate of taxation than money made in sweatshops?

Occupiers may say, hell yah! They make the money by sitting on their ass, enjoying so much privilege from the society, and should contribute back to the society/country by paying more taxes. It is because all the work of 99% that 1% can make all that money. Et cetera, et cetera.

I am a supporter of progressivity in income taxation, as a complicated modern world, it seems to be the best way to spread the costs of having the society running. Without doing empirical and quantitative study on how much each dollar costs the “society”, and what manner of profits generating is most “taxing” for the society, we can only hope for the best, right? So I rest my case on this. But I will be ecstatic if I ever encounter some insightful explanation on this point (dig out some tax policy articles maybe, note to self)

So let’s establish the baseline here: progressivity in the income taxation. Then another question comes: should different types of income tax at different rate?

It is easy to lose sight when we look at individual taxation. Capital income, unlike other income such as wage, cascades down from some sort of business entity, first appears in the form of business profits, and then later in the form of individual capital income. Taxation happens, at least theoretically, at each appearance.

Should capital income be taxed so many rounds? I mean, why is it so hated? From an utility perspective, is hard-earned money really more solid than money from money? Should we tax based on how easy it is earned, how much it costs to be earned, or…?

But in the risk of oversimplying, Mitt Romney’s low tax rate is not necessarily unfair. I mean, it can be unfair if all the capital income is taxed on corporate level and then again at 15% or whatever his individual rate it, then this part of income can even be categorized as overtaxed. There is the problem of negative tax rate in many corporation, so if the corporate level tax is somewhat escaped, Romney is getting a god-damned one-percenter windfall. But presently, we don’t know. I hope some media can dig out some real data and then we can analyze the effective rate, rather than nominal rate, on his income stream.

WAIT, why do I care? It is so obviously politics. But maybe some one-percenter should throw in some money to hire someone do this research. It may give them some tool to fight back.

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Some final notes on today’s R&R and FinProd class.

For someone like Prof.P who believes that income should be taxed once (he doesn’t believe corporate tax is the price to pay for the privilege of access to public equity market – for him, it is either too steep a price, or basically a highway robbery that is counterproductive), corporate integration, which essentially eliminates doublet taxation on the corporate level, is the way to go. Practically, I think it makes perfect sense for reasons including, but not limited to, promoting capital deployment and re-deployment, increase financial efficiency, preventing lock-in effect, putting debt and equity on equal footing (so business are not so leveraged that the whole world is on the verge of bankruptcy). Overall, reduce the distortion effect from taxation on business/finance decisions.

When we talk about corporate integration, we are talking about converging two separate set of tax regimes into on, namely integrating corporate level taxation and individual shareholder level taxation. If there is only one level of taxation,  which set should be eliminated? Should the corporation be taxed as a juristic person, and just consider taxation another business expense which are diffused by business as they wish? The concept of “incident of taxation” is repeatedly mentioned, but the question is, why do we care? This issue wasn’t addressed much at today’s class, but maybe disincentivizing people from conducting business in corporate form is one of it? Apparently evidence shows that people are being creative in shifting away from corporate form (Sub Chapter C) to avoid the tax pressure.

So we care about how taxation can influence corporate behavior and negatively impact economic efficiency. The taxation should be at a proper rate level and paid by the proper person. I think it is Avi-Yonah, who points out that it is not shareholders who make the corporate finance decision, but the officers (well, there is some corporate governance issues here, but at face it is a passable argument). So the real decision makers need to be properly incentivized; deduction, which gives them a better number to brag out, may work out better in this regard.

Something in the Fin Prod class may actually back up the argument that the one-percenters are creating enormous value/utility: they facilitate the financial products markets, which is basically the scaffolding of global economy and enables complex business transactions happening on a regular basis.

This thought needs to be dug further. But I have a dentist appointment at 830 tmr.

Ciao.

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