One of the questions on the ballot for 2008 in Massachusetts is a question to repeal the state income tax. I think a lot of people have gut reactions to such a thing, but I’m still undecided.
There’s the standard arguments — big government vs little government. Some people will approach the ballot with certain biases. But above and beyond that, there are unique issues with the income tax. There are a couple reasons why the state income tax is no great shakes:
- Income tax requires massive privacy loss. Income tax requires an exhaustive accounting of your personal life. It allows the state to make what you do for a living, who you live with, and how much money you earn its business.
- Processing is inefficienct. The bureaucracy involved is staggering. The processing of the complicated forms costs money. The IRS budget last year was $11 billion. The sheer complexity of even filling out the forms means that you’re bound to do it wrong and under- or over-pay. Of course, this downside could be alleviated with a much simpler tax code, like the FairTax.
And a couple reasons why, in my mind, this ballot question is not a great idea:
- The state is not the enemy. MA state income tax is paltry compared to the federal government. MA takes roughly 5% I think. The fed takes roughly 25%. And what the state does take goes to much more useful things than the federal government. It goes to pay for roads you use, schools you attend, communities you live in. The federal money goes towards wars in the Middle East and Big Oil (as well as some useful stuff, but a much smaller percentage).
- This particular plan is not gradual. I would have liked to see this ballot provide an alternative funding source (raising gas tax or sales tax) or gradually reduce the income tax. Massachusetts’s credit rating will sink and projects will be dropped midway through (or we’d just go into crushing debt).
I’m certain there are points I’m not thinking of. The libertarian in me really wants to vote for it, but I’m not certain it is the wisest course.