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Why Impose An Inflation Tax?



William Byrnes, Tax Advisor

Raising our Taxes and Killing Social Security via the Republican’s Proposal for an Inflation Tax in Tax Reform

This so-called “Tax Reform” is going to raise our tax burdens while killing social security.  The Republicans have proposed, and Democrats have agreed, that actual inflation should not be recognized in future years, limiting inflation adjustments of tax brackets to increase tax on persons who earn more because of inflation, and decreasing social security benefits by half over 20 years.  This Tax Reform, besides reducing retirement opportunities for public employees, imposes “Chained CPI” (also known as the inflation tax) upon social security benefits to keep them from increasing and upon tax brackets to keep them from increasing as well. But tax brackets not increasing is bad for taxpayers. Tax brackets that do not move up to account for actual inflation require a higher tax rate be paid on future income as actual inflation pushes it into the next bracket.

I thought Republicans wanted lower taxes imposed on people who sweat and toil? Or do Republicans actually want lower taxes only on idle passive investors?

What if I like organic apples?

How’s that again? “Chained CPI” is sold as the savior of Social Security (see Heritage Foundation explanation). The example employed by Heritage in favor of Chained CPI: if apples go up in price, then consumers stop eating apples and eat cheaper oranges instead. What if I prefer apples? What if I am allergic to oranges? To my actual point: it is not a ‘choice of apples versus oranges world. It’s a choice between quality and cheaper (generally imported) goods. Chained CPI over time eliminates the local farmer’s organic apples in favor of the imported, genetically modified, pesticide grown cheap apples. Chained CPI requires that we reduce lean meat (sorry vegans) in favor of affordable fast food.

Chained CPI is a system built on forcing a degrading quality of life onto retirees. 

Compounded over time, it’s a choice between affording medication and going without medication, giving up restaurant dates with my spouse in favor of TV dinners. The monthly annuity from social security, as little as it is relative to a 15.4% pay-in of salary (albeit capped, but so are benefits) over 40 years, could be cut significantly over 20 years (see New Republic explanation) in respect to what it can actually buy in today’s terms. In 20 years when my generations retirees wake up to this death by a thousand substitutions, the monthly social security annuity is so relatively inconsequential, it won’t be worth discussing any longer. Worse, over these 20 years, our tax bills will increase annually via the Chained CPI bracket creep that keeps brackets from adjusting upward as our wages hopefully increase. So inflationary tax takes away our ability to try to mitigate the loss of our catchup retirement and social security. We MUST work, if able, until we drop dead, assuming that we are not substituted for a cheaper wage worker.

Retired, Older Experience Hirer Inflation Than Younger Population  

The Congressional Research Service has published a study that finds that elderly persons actually experience higher inflation than younger ones (see CRS Research Report A Separate Consumer Price Index for the Elderly?).  Instead of going the wrong direction to a Chained CPI, the CRS suggests a CPI for the elderly spending patterns to be called CPI-E.

Follow the impact analysis of the 2018 tax updates after these pass by a team of experts who will map out how these affect your clients and what planning you need to do – TaxFacts Online.

Have a question? Contact William Byrnes

Your comments are welcome!

William H. Byrnes has achieved authoritative prominence with more than 20 books, treatise chapters and book supplements, 1,000 media articles, and the monthly subscriber Tax Facts Intelligence. Titles include: Lexis® Guide to FATCA Compliance, Foreign Tax and Trade Briefs, Practical Guide to U.S. Transfer Pricing, and Money Laundering, Asset Forfeiture; Recovery, and Compliance (a Global Guide). He is a principal author of the Tax Facts series. He was a Senior Manager, then Associate Director of international tax for Coopers and Lybrand, and practiced in Southern Africa, Western Europe, South East Asia, the Indian sub-continent, and the Caribbean. He has been commissioned by a number of governments on tax policy. Obtained the title of tenured law professor in 2005 at St. Thomas in Miami, and in 2008 the level of Associate Dean at Thomas Jefferson. William Byrnes pioneered online legal education in 1995, thereafter creating the first online LL.M. offered by an ABA accredited law school (International Taxation and Financial Services graduate program).

One comment

  1. Jim McKnight says:

    Yes it is a rip off, but no one has proposed a way that will actually pass to fix the soundness of social securtiy. Anyone who looks at their proposed Social Security benefit when they retire will see an asterisk. When you read the fine print it tells you that there will be a reduced benefit because the fund can’t sustain this level given how it is funded.

    Margaret Thatcher had it right on socialism when she quipped that the problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money. Similarly, Milton Friedman said that economics could be summed up in one simple sentence “There ain’t no free lunch.”

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